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How Is Pain and Suffering Determined in a Car Accident Case?
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, you might be wondering how much compensation your case might be worth. There are two primary categories of damages available to victims injured in car accidents: special damages and general damages.
What are Special Damages?
Special damages are easily calculable, as they are the direct losses stemming from an injury. Special damages in car accidents often include:
- medical bills,
- property damages, including a damaged or totaled vehicle,
- lost wages,
- other costs incurred as the direct result of a crash.
Special damages are usually tied to an expense or other ascertainable dollar amount. In comparison, general damages can be challenging to value, as they include non-tangible factors like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and emotional distress.
As an experienced Virginia car accident attorney with decades of experience, Mark Hurt can assess the facts of your case, explain your legal options, and assist in tenaciously seeking the maximum compensation you deserve for your losses. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn about your entitlement to seek compensation for any pain and suffering that you incurred in a car crash.
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What Is Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering is a legal term used to refer to the injuries resulting from severe accidents. It encompasses not only physical trauma but also mental and emotional impairments, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Mental pain and suffering can be so significant that it prevents a victim from returning to work even after physical injuries have healed. Consequently, it is critical to account not only for physical trauma but also for emotional and mental trauma as such trauma can also result in substantial monetary loss and lifestyle impact.
The Factors Often Considered in Calculating Pain And Suffering Damages
Judges, juries, and insurance companies typically weigh various factors when calculating the types of damages to award for pain and suffering. Often, they will consider:
- The severity of injuries and the degree of pain that a victim likely endured
- Overall physical and mental pain
- How injuries impact daily living activities
- How long an injury will take to heal
- Whether the injury is permanent and thus causes prolonged pain
- What medical treatments the victim received, and the corresponding pain associated with such treatments
- The prognosis of the injury and whether future painful surgeries or other treatment may be necessary.
Every automobile accident is unique; therefore, the damage calculations can vary significantly. As a Virginia automobile accident lawyer, Mark Hurt tenaciously seeks maximum compensation, consulting with financial, medical, and other experts (as needed) to ensure all damages are fully accounted for, including pain and suffering.
How Do Insurance Companies Often Calculate Pain and Suffering?
In settlement negotiations, insurance companies will often use one of two methods for calculating pain and suffering in personal injury cases:
- The Multiplier Method. The multiplier method is based upon multiplying the “special” damages (i.e., medical bills, property damages, lost wages, etc.) by a number to determine the damages for pain and suffering. Typically, the multiplier is between 1.5 and 5 (based on the severity of the pain and suffering). For example, if an injury victim has $50,000 in medical bills and lost wages, and a multiplier of 3 is used, the non-economic damages of pain and suffering would be $150,000 (for a total of $200,000 for the case).
- The Per Diem Method. This method assigns a value to each day a victim suffers injuries, beginning from the date of an accident until an individual reaches maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement is the date on which a medical expert determines further improvement of a medical condition is no longer possible. Usually, this method is not used as frequently as the multiplier method.
Making the Case for Pain and Suffering Damages, and Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages at Trial
While “formula” approaches may be used by insurance companies in settlement negotiations, at trial, pain and suffering (and other damages) will be determined by a jury. Under Virginia law, juries are free to calculate pain and suffering in any manner they believe appropriate.
In these circumstances, we believe that jurors will often look at the evidence introduced at trial and then ask themselves what they would believe to be fair if the injuries had occurred to them.
In some instances, like with broken bones, jurors may have suffered similar injuries, so they will be able to appreciate the pain and suffering endured. In other types of injuries – such as burn injuries – jurors may also well know the extreme pain caused by even a very small burn. They may then be tasked with trying to extrapolate the pain and suffering to a horrific burn injury that may have been suffered by an injury victim. Or, they may need to try to imagine what life would be like if they suffered other life-altering and crippling damages, such as those that result in constant severe pain.
Ultimately, in deliberations, jurors will need to agree upon an amount for pain and suffering based upon the evidence presented (assuming that defendant liability is also found).
The Economic Connection Between Pain and Suffering and Medical Expenses and Other Damages
In most cases, there will be some connection between pain and suffering and the economic damages suffered, such as greater medical bills are usually associated with more severe pain and suffering. However, this is not always the case.
For example, facial burns, scars, and other disfigurements may lead to severe long-term and permanent pain and suffering, even though the medical expenses may be somewhat limited. Facial disfiguration, in particular, is not only painful, but it can also have life-long social and career ramifications. Our role as attorneys is to show the full and true impact of pain and suffering in settlement negotiations so that insurance companies and defendants will know the considerations that will be shown to a jury if a fair settlement cannot be reached.
“Day in the Life” Videos
In cases of extreme injuries, such as paralysis, severe burns, and traumatic brain injury, the life of a person may be forever changed, as well as the life of a victim’s spouse, children, parents, or other family members. In these circumstances, it may be helpful for a jury to see a video about how a person’s daily life – and the lives of the family members – has been affected by a severe car crash.
How is Pain and Suffering Proven in a Virginia Car Accident or Truck Crash Case?
It is vital to compile substantial evidence detailing a debilitating loss and the changes experienced after suffering an injury. As a car accident law firm with decades of experience, in making a claim for pain and suffering damages, we will want to seek or obtain:
- Medical records detailing diagnosis of injuries, x-rays, lab results, medication given, and related matters
- Notes from psychological therapy sessions, if mental health treatment was obtained, as well any mental health diagnosis that may have been made and any medications prescribed
- Any other written opinions, diagnoses, and notes from physicians or other healthcare professionals corroborating how an injury or condition has affected a crash victim’s life
- Testimony from witnesses who may have seen the crash
- Testimony from family members and care providers who assisted in a victim’s recovery after a crash
- Testimony from neutral third-party experts corroborating the opinions of medical experts, including the degree of pain and suffering incurred as the result of a crash and subsequent treatment
- Information regarding future surgeries, medical treatment, and rehabilitation that may be required, including detailed information about the nature and frequency of such treatment and the likely medications that may be necessary (and the side effects of any such medications)
- A detailed journal or account from an accident victim describing their life following a crash, including how the crash affected their life, the activities in which they can no longer participate, the medication that they must take (and any side effects), how their injuries impact their ability to work and their ability to interact with loved ones, and similar matters.
Painting a complete picture regarding pain and suffering can help a judge or jury understand the actual extent of suffering and damages. At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, when you become a client, we will conduct a thorough investigation of all of your damages in seeking to obtain for you the full compensation to which you are entitled.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Experienced Virginia Car Accident Attorney Mark Hurt.
If you or a loved one suffered debilitating injuries in a car crash caused by a negligent driver and endured pain and suffering, we invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Virginia car accident lawyer.
Firm-founding attorney and Duke Law graduate Mark Hurt has over two decades of experience successfully handling automobile accident lawsuits and settlements. Mark is a tenacious litigator who has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for injured clients. If you are looking for zealous representation, call today to learn how we can seek to protect your rights and the full compensation to which you and your family rightfully deserve.