What is Meant by Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Context?

Let's look at what this means and unpack how it is evaluated in a personal injury lawsuit.

There are many scenarios in which pain and suffering can arise and be the subject of a personal injury claim.

What is Meant by Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Context?
Physical pain and suffering is the pain of the plaintiff's actual physical injuries. Image/Shutterstock

For the purposes of this article, we will use the example of a catastrophic car crash that has caused severe injuries, both physical and emotional, to a victim.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports around 5.5 million car accidents in the U.S. each year. These lead to 3 million injuries, as well as 40,000 fatalities.

The U.S. Department of Justice has calculated that only 4% of personal injury cases ever see trial, with most settled out of court. However, with around 16,397 cases going to trial every year, it is evident that there are over 400,000 personal injury claims per year.

In a personal injury claim, the victim can sue for damages. Damages cover medical expenses related to treating injuries caused in the crash, financial loss from an inability to work, and many other factors.

Contact a highly experienced and specialized personal injury attorney at law (if you’re in Illinois, we recommend Chicago-based Dave Abels) to have your case assessed for free.

Damages include an award relating to pain and suffering.

Let’s look at what this means and unpack how it is evaluated in a personal injury lawsuit.

Pain and Suffering is a Non-Economic Damage

Damages are generally one of two kinds:

Economic Damages

The victim has suffered financial loss due to lost income and payment of medical bills. The loss is calculated by presenting evidence of the expense or the loss.

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*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

This is easy to quantify.

Non-Economic Damages

These damages are more personal to the victim and more challenging to quantify. However, they include the area of pain and suffering.

Pain and suffering are highly subjective and will differ from person to person. Every case thus hinges on its own facts.

So What Constitutes Pain and Suffering?

There is no legal definition of pain and suffering due to subjectivity.

It does seem to cover all aspects of physical pain suffered by the victim and physical discomfort and psychological distress suffered due to the accident.

A few examples of the kinds of psychological distress are:

  • Disfigurement
  • Nervousness
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Indignity
  • Mental suffering
  • Embarrassment
  • Terror
  • Fright
  • Anger
  • Grief
  • Depression

How Much Can You Expect to be Awarded for Pain and Suffering?

No pain and suffering calculator exists to determine an amount.

Should a personal injury matter proceed all the way to trial, a jury will be left to decide the extent of the award for pain and suffering.

This differs on a case-by-case basis due to subjectivity.

Amounts vary widely between states due to limitations on what is allowed in a claim and limits set on claim amounts.

You need to prove what you are claiming. This is done through the presentation of all manner of evidence that will strengthen your claim, such as:

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*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

  • Medical records
  • Physical therapy records
  • Testimony from physicians
  • Prescription records
  • Statements from people known to the victim
  • Psychological evaluation reports

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In Summary

Pain and suffering from part of personal injury claims can be substantial.

Due to the subjective experience of pain and suffering, it is impossible to predict how much the award will be.

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Claire Polansky, Ph.D. M.A.

Claire Polansky is a content writer for Tel Aviv University and a freelance writer deeply committed to health, animal welfare, and soci

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