In civil lawsuits, there is a type of compensation called pain and suffering that the journal Law and Human Behavior describes as awards to address non-economic injuries sought in a personal injury claim. For example, a victim can receive pain and suffering from emotional trauma when an accident results in injuries that take a particularly devastating toll on their mental and emotional well-being.
Determining what qualifies as pain and suffering can prove complicated, but many cases seek compensation for these damages in civil cases. To help quantify pain and suffering damages, some lawyers call forensic pathologists and other specialists to provide context to the situation. This context can make it easier to determine the impact of the incident.
Examples of Pain and Suffering
Determining what to include in the pain and suffering calculation depends on several factors. It is also not clear how to weigh these factors. Every judge can have a slightly different interpretation of the criteria. Some examples of pain and suffering include:
- Broken bones: Broken bones can cause physical pain that lasts for long periods while creating temporary limitations on your life that affect your mental health.
- Embarrassment: Embarrassment suffered because of an incident can add to the emotional stress faced by victims. It also contributes to a higher risk of developing depression.
- Scarring: Lasting scars can have social and financial implications. Removing scars is an expensive and challenging procedure, and if a doctor cannot fix them, they can create lasting emotional stress because of changes in appearance.
- Disabilities and permanent injuries: Disabilities and other permanent injuries can affect your quality of life, including your ability to work.
Calculating awards for pain and suffering can prove challenging because of the subjective nature of the injuries. You can document your medical bills or lost income, but how does one value quality of life in dollars? The judge has the most say in the final award, although your personal injury lawyer can ask for specific amounts. Because of the difficulty to quantify pain and suffering, each judge may work from a different set of guidelines.
If your case goes to trial, limited legal criteria might apply that you can use to identify pain and suffering events in your situation. Perhaps the most basic criterion is that the incident must cause some level of emotional, mental, or physical trauma. You must demonstrate this stress or pain to the court somehow, which is how the legal criteria for pain and suffering become challenging. It is difficult to prove something like pain or stress that is intangible to others.
Many lawyers rely on several types of evidence to show pain and suffering. One popular method of proving pain and suffering is testimony from people in your life. They can speak to how the incident has affected your behavior and mood. Healthcare providers can also provide useful evidence. Their medical reports can detail the extent of your injuries and how that contributes to ongoing pain. Mental health professionals can report on your mental and emotional state.
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Liability for pain and suffering falls on the at-fault party. Since that party is responsible for the incident, you can hold them responsible for pain and suffering awards. The one caveat is that anything included in the pain and suffering claim must relate directly to the incident—an essential part of what your lawyer must prove when claiming pain and suffering damages.
Expectations for Safety
When you enter a situation where you rely on another party for your safety, there is a basic expectation that they will uphold their duty of care. For example, walking into a store and hurting your leg because the floor was not kept clean is a situation where you expected to shop in a safe environment but could not. In this case, you can hold the owner of the store accountable. Some other instances in which a responsible party might breach their duty of care include:
- Medical malpractice: When you sustain an injury because a physician ignored a standard of care or did not follow best practices during treatment.
- Employment discrimination: When an employer terminates or does not hire you because you are a part of a class protected by law from discrimination.
- Car accidents: Collisions in which a reckless driver negligently caused your injuries.
- Slip and fall accidents: Slipping and falling due to unsafe conditions that someone should have kept up.
You can have a reasonable expectation of safety in many other situations not covered on this list. Any time you suffer an injury because someone else failed to uphold their duty of care, you might qualify to file a personal injury lawsuit.
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At Pintas and Mullins Law Firm, we handle civil cases every day. We advise clients on how best to proceed with their case. An important part of our work focuses on determining what qualifies as pain and suffering and compiling evidence that allows you to seek compensation for it. If you suffered injuries because of someone else’s actions, contact our team at (800) 223-5115 to discuss your case for free.