In personal injury cases such as car accident or brain injury cases, plaintiffs may be awarded damages if they are successful in their claim. Damages is a term that refers to the amount of money that can be awarded to the plaintiff in a personal injury claim.
Typically, damages are paid by the person to be found at fault for negligence or intentional harm done to the plaintiff. A plaintiff may also receive compensation from the defendant’s insurance company.
Damages are further classified as either economic or non-economic. Economic damages are those damages that are easily calculable because they are typically based on medical bills, damage to property, or lost income.
However, non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, are not so easily calculable because the plaintiff is unable to provide a bill or receipt for such damages. This article will go over pain and suffering damages in detail.
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Physical Injuries That Qualify for Pain and Suffering
Physical pain and suffering includes the actual pain and discomfort from the injury as well as the ongoing physical impact on the plaintiff that the injuries caused and will continue to cause. Physical injuries that may qualify for pain and suffering damages include, but are not limited to:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Nerve damage
- Broken bones
- Brain injuries
- Organ damage
Just about any type of physical injury can give rise to pain and suffering damages.
Emotional or Mental Pain and Suffering
Emotional distress or mental anguish (under Florida law) is when the plaintiff is injured and suffers severe mental harm by someone else’s negligent action(s). Emotional pain and suffering may include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of or diminished quality of life
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
You can claim relief for most forms of emotional or mental pain and suffering.
Establishing Pain and Suffering
Establishing pain and suffering requires documentation as evidence and may include, but is not limited to, medical records, doctor’s notes, photographs and videos, and expert opinion.
The more evidence a plaintiff can provide to its claim, the more the insurance company, the court, and/or the jury will be able to see the extent of the pain and suffering affecting the plaintiff’s life. In addition to the documentation, a plaintiff will also need the testimony of himself/herself, the plaintiff’s family, and/or the plaintiff’s friends and/or coworkers.
Calculating Pain and Suffering
Calculating pain and suffering is no easy task because every plaintiff’s injury is different, every accident is different, and every plaintiff’s response to those injuries is different.
Therefore, setting a dollar amount based on these circumstances is extremely subjective. The two methods used to calculate pain and suffering are the “Multiplier Method” and the “Per Diem Method.” Although pain and suffering calculators are available online, those are to be avoided.
Pain and Suffering Calculators
Pain and suffering calculators calculate a plaintiff’s pain and suffering by using a formula that multiplies the plaintiff’s damages based on the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries. Online pain and suffering calculators are inaccurate because they cannot calculate the true amount of damages a plaintiff is able to receive without understanding the full extent of the plaintiff’s accident, injuries, and the effect(s) of those injuries. To fully understand the amount expected for pain and suffering, a plaintiff will want to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
The Multiplier Method
This method entails assigning a multiplier to the plaintiff’s economic damages figure. This multiplier will usually be between 1.0 and 5. In order to decide what the multiplier is, an attorney will assess the below factors to determine how serious the plaintiff’s injuries are. The severity of the injury and other similar factors will decide whether the injury is multiplied by a higher or lower number.
The Per Diem Method
The “Per Diem,” or “by the day” Method uses a daily calculator for pain and suffering damages. A specific amount is paid for each day from the time of the accident until the plaintiff reaches maximum medical improvement. This calculation method is used when a medical professional does not expect the plaintiff’s condition to improve further.
Either calculation method can be used by the plaintiff’s attorney; deciding which method to use will depend on which method will yield the most favorable award. Ultimately, however, the court retains the decision on what amount should be awarded to the plaintiff.
A Jury’s Input on Pain and Suffering Damages
Although a jury will most likely have no trouble in determining how much a Plaintiff may be awarded for its economic damages, the award for the Plaintiff’s non-economic damages is a bit more difficult to determine without cut-and-dry proof like a medical bill. Standard jury instructions do not even guide the jury in determining an amount.
Typically, it is beneficial to provide the jury with a range of dollar figures to determine what the final amount will be awarded to the plaintiff. Allowing different witnesses to present multiple viewpoints describing the extent of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering damages and providing a monetary range for each will give the jury an opportunity to compensate the Plaintiff for their loss.
Specifically, witnesses who knew the plaintiff before and after the accident and who have no personal stake in the litigation (such as employers and coworkers rather than friends and relatives) will provide the jury with a clear picture of how the plaintiff’s injuries affected their lifestyle.
Seek a Personal Injury Attorney With Experience in Seeking Pain and Suffering Damages
A plaintiff’s best chance to ensure that they receive an amount sufficient to cover their pain and suffering is to seek an experienced attorney. An attorney can protect the plaintiff from any deceptive tactics that an insurance company may use to try and reduce the plaintiff’s sought relief and can assist the plaintiff in receiving the maximum amount for pain and suffering damages. Contact our law office at Winters and Yonker, P.A. to schedule a free consultation.