How Do You Prove Pain and Suffering After a Car Accident?
The impact of getting injured due to someone else’s negligence goes far beyond financial consequences like medical bills or lost income. Physical and emotional pain is often the hardest part of getting seriously hurt and can affect the victim’s quality of life for months or years.
Whether you were involved in a car accident or received substandard care from a medical professional, you have the legal right to seek compensation for your damages under Florida’s personal injury laws, which include more than just economic damages.
Intangible costs like pain and suffering are often overlooked because they’re harder to prove and don’t come with a specific dollar figure. However, they’re just as real and deserving of compensation as other damages. The good news is that, A car accident lawyer with right legal team and strategy, it is possible for negligence victims to demonstrate the full impact of how an injury affects their life.
This blog post provides an overview of the pain and suffering damages you can pursue and how these non-economic damages are substantiated under Florida law.
The Types of Pain and Suffering Damages You Can Pursue
Florida courts understand that the physical and psychological harm that results from serious injuries can have a far-reaching, potentially life-changing impact on victims and their families. That means pain and suffering damages are crucial to any personal injury lawsuit, especially if the injuries are likely to have long-term consequences, like a permanent disability. Some examples of the types of non-economic losses that can be pursued include:
Physical pain is one of the most common and significant forms of non-economic damages that victims of negligence-related injuries can claim. Pain can manifest as acute pain, chronic pain, headaches, and muscle soreness, all of which can impact the victim’s ability to perform everyday tasks, work, socialize, or enjoy life. Permanent injuries, like severe spinal damage, can lead to a lifetime of suffering.
Loss of Enjoyment
The cognitive or physical impairments that result from an injury can potentially stop victims from being able to participate in hobbies or activities that had been a major part of their life, causing feelings of anger, frustration, and emotional distress.
For example, someone who loved hiking outdoors and was left wheelchair-bound from a car accident could claim damages for loss of enjoyment. This type of loss can be particularly hard to measure because it involves subjective experiences. Still, there are strategies to substantiate loss of enjoyment, like with the victim’s personal impact statement.
Scarring or Disfigurement
Scarring or disfigurement is a type of non-economic damage that can be claimed by someone who suffered major changes to their physical appearance due to injuries like visible scars, burns, or an amputated limb. This type of harm can have a significant, heart-breaking impact on the victim’s self-esteem, emotional well-being, and ability to socialize.
Loss of Companionship
Loss of companionship damages are often awarded as part of Wrongful Death claims, the legal recourse available for family members who have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness. Loss of companionship refers to missing the emotional support, comfort, and companionship this person would have provided if they were still alive. This type of harm is often felt most acutely by spouses, children, parents, and other close relatives.
Inconvenience Caused by Physical Limitations
This type of damage compensates for the daily challenges victims face due to their physical limitations, whether chronic pain, decreased energy levels, or difficulty standing for extended periods. They may also struggle with tasks like cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. The inconvenience and discomfort a person experiences due to their injuries can be both physically and emotionally taxing, leading to feelings of frustration and helplessness.
Emotional distress refers to the negative impact getting injured has on the victim’s mental health, including difficult symptoms like anxiety and depression. They can also be impacted by the trauma of the experience itself, such as surviving a violent car accident, which can lead to ongoing flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety about driving or riding in a vehicle. These emotional injuries can be just as debilitating as physical ones and are likely to impact the victim’s ability to function in day-to-day life.
Reduced Quality of Life
Serious injuries can cause a reduced quality of life, whether from physical limitations, chronic pain, lost independence, emotional distress, or other factors that affect the victim’s overall well-being. This form of damage can be especially devastating in cases with permanent injuries, where the victim has to adjust to a significantly different way of life.
Calculating the Financial Value of Pain and Suffering Damages
Unlike the more straightforward costs of suffering preventable injuries, like hospital bills, the damages caused by pain and suffering don’t have a measurable monetary value. This is where personal injury lawyers can play a critical role in helping their clients substantiate these intangible losses and make a persuasive case for recovering fair compensation.
Calculating pain and suffering damages is a complex process and more of an art than a science, but there are reliable strategies attorneys can use to help them arrive at a ballpark figure that reflects the extent of their client’s physical and emotional pain. Some of the formulas and methods that can be used as the starting point for negotiations include:
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method is the most common approach for calculating pain and suffering damages in personal injury cases. This method directly links the economic and non-economic consequences of an injury, asserting a direct correlation between these two aspects of serious injuries.
The formula involves multiplying the total amount of economic damages the victim suffered (like medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses) by a number.
The multiplier is chosen based on the severity of the claimant’s injuries and the length of their recovery time. The more severe the injury and the longer the pain and suffering last, the higher the multiplier.
The multiplier method provides a framework for calculating pain and suffering damages but relies on subjective assessments and may not completely reflect the victim’s intangible damages. Car accident lawyers use this method as a point of reference rather than a strict formula.
The Per Diem Method
This method calculates the claimant’s pain and suffering per diem, or per day, and it’s based on quantifying intangible losses by the length of time the victim takes to recover. The per diem method is considered an accurate way of measuring non-economic damages for injuries that have a fixed recovery period rather than those likely to cause a long-term disability.
Under the per diem method, the claimant’s pain and suffering is assigned a specific dollar amount based on factors like how much their injuries affected daily life, especially their ability to earn a living.
In a scenario where the claimant suffers a back injury in a car accident, they may take 90 days to reach maximum medical recovery, the point where they will not heal any further despite treatment. If their attorney determines the fair daily rate for pain and suffering is $200 per day, the claimant’s damages would come to $18,000 (90 days x $200).
The dollar amount used for the per diem method is determined through negotiation or based on the calculation used for similar cases.
Other Factors Used to Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages
None of the popular formulas for calculating pain and suffering damages can be considered definitive. Many other factors will also impact the final amount of personal injury lawyers will push for during the negotiation process or when arguing before a judge. Some of the individual circumstances of the case that are most relevant throughout this process include:
The Type of Injury
Some claims will result in higher pain and suffering damages due to the nature of the injury itself. In cases of severe facial scarring or disfigurement, the victim’s medical expenses won’t fully correspond to the long-term, emotional harm they may suffer. The same goes for someone whose injuries caused an extremely painful loss, such as a professional pianist who can no longer play due to a hand injury.
The Victim’s Age, Occupation, and Overall Health
Quantifying intangible damages is all about measuring how much the victim lost due to the at-fault party’s negligence, especially when it comes to permanent, disabling injuries. This is why younger victims and those considered to be in the prime of their careers will typically receive greater damages than someone who’s a lot older and already retired, to reflect that their injuries will have a greater impact on their future earning potential and quality of life.
The same is true for someone in excellent health before getting hurt, compared to a victim with pre-existing conditions who may have had a shorter life expectancy.
The Length of the Victim’s Recovery Period and Long-term Effects of the Injury
Prolonged pain and suffering, as is typical for permanent injuries, will significantly impact a victim’s quality of life, and they are entitled to the highest compensation for non-economic damages.
A victim who suffers a spinal cord injury that leaves them paralyzed will require long-term medical treatment, experience chronic pain and struggle with a host of permanent physical limitations.
Determining the appropriate pain and suffering damages for these kinds of injuries is complicated and typically requires the testimony of medical professionals who can assess the victim’s prognosis for recovery and the challenges they’ll face in the long term.
How Personal Injury Lawyers Prove Pain and Suffering Damages?
Intangible damages are very subjective and difficult to measure, which is why they can often be overlooked by insurance adjusters, judges, and juries. At the heart of any successful pain and suffering claim is the victim’s own story, especially all the physical and emotional challenges they’ve faced due to the at-fault’s party negligence.
Your attorney will work closely with you to help you tell your story in the most compelling way possible, which includes using a range of tools and resources to demonstrate the full impact of getting injured. Some of the main strategies attorneys use to help clients demonstrate their pain and suffering damages include:
The victim’s hospital records can include diagnostic tests like X-rays and CT scans, doctor’s notes, prescribed medications, and a timeline of all the medical treatments required. This documentation is one of the most important resources for providing objective evidence of the victim’s pain, physical limitations, and emotional distress.
Testimony from Medical Professionals
Medical specialists can provide valuable, expert testimony about the nature and extent of the claimant’s injuries, especially in cases where the long-term consequences are harder to understand. For example, if the victim suffered brain injuries in a car accident, a neurologist can explain the cognitive symptoms of this type of trauma, like difficulty concentrating or controlling emotions.
Impact Statements from the Victim and Their Loved Ones
The claimant’s personal journal about daily life in the aftermath of getting injured and through their recovery process can be an effective, powerful form of evidence for substantiating pain and suffering damages.
Personal injury lawyers encourage clients to keep a diary to capture specific details about their physical and emotional difficulties that wouldn’t be conveyed through medical records, all in real time. The victim’s close relatives can also provide insights on how getting injured has affected the victim’s life, including their emotional state, energy levels, and difficulty following their normal routine.
Get a Personal Injury Law Lawyer to Help Prove Pain and Suffering Damages
The pain and suffering that results from serious injuries can have a significant impact on every aspect of the victim’s life, both in the short term and the long term. While the road to proving non-economic damages can be more complicated than other types of losses, Florida courts recognize the importance of these intangible costs from an injury.
Hire an experienced personal injury lawyer in Florida who understands how to quantify and substantiate pain and suffering damages so you can recover compensation for all of your harms.
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Jim Holliday has recovered millions of dollars for his clients in restitution for their injuries.