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Understanding Pain and Suffering Damages in Personal Injury Cases

A doctor going over paperwork with a patient.

Pain and damages are less quantifiable than medical bills and lost wages. However, they also affect the size of your total settlements and help you compensate for your losses and what you have to “go through.” This article explores pain and suffering damages in personal injury cases. By the time you have reached the end of the article, we hope to have enlightened you on effective actions you can take. 

What Qualifies as Pain and Suffering Damages

Pain and suffering in personal injury cases pertain to the non-economic damages of the plaintiff’s claim for compensation. If medical bills and lost wages are part of the economic damages, non-economic damages are not easily quantified.

There are two types of pain and suffering for personal injury claims:

Physical Pain and Suffering

Physical pain and suffering are the past, present, and future pain from actual physical injuries caused by the accident. It also includes pain from medical treatment due to the injuries. Disability or loss of function from the pain and injuries are included as they impact the person’s daily activities and increase the plaintiff’s suffering.

Mental Pain and Suffering

Mental pain and suffering are the past, present, and future mental and emotional distress from the injuries of the accident. Mental pain and suffering include anxiety, depression, fear of financial instability, and other adverse psychological effects that impact their relationships and enjoyment in life.

Pain and Suffering Settlement

Pain and suffering settlements allow plaintiffs to recover their losses from their injuries because of the accident. The insurance company often pays a plaintiff’s settlement. However, the amount of settlement is affected by the following:

  • Type of Accident that Caused the Injury
    An accident that caused more severe vehicle damage can amplify settlement negotiation.
  • Type of Injury
    Internal bleeding, fractures, burns, and other severe injuries amplify compensation for pain and suffering.
  • Severity of Pain, Injury, and Disability
    Long-term disabilities from grave accidents can bring multi-million dollar compensation for past, present, and future pain and suffering.
  • Length of Recovery
    Injuries with long-term recoveries that require loss of occupation and months of physical therapy sessions can result in significant settlement amounts in injury cases.
  • Medical Treatment Needed
    An accident that causes higher medical bills can have a higher pain and suffering award.
  • Effect on Plaintiff’s Relationships
    Mental distress can affect relationships and be included in the plaintiff’s list of losses to be compensated in a personal injury settlement.

What are the Proofs of Pain and Suffering

Proof has a significant impact on injury cases. It can record compensatory damages such as the level of disability, elements of emotional distress, and psychological damages.

Proof can be solidified through testimonies and records about how the plaintiff’s injuries from the accident affected their life.

 Your Medical Record

Your medical record tells the story and progression of your sustained injuries from the personal injury accident. Here are the following ways to ensure your medical record tracks your injuries’ progress (or lack thereof).

  • Never miss a follow-up checkup. 
    If you miss a follow-up checkup, it can be assumed that your injuries are less severe than they are.
  • Schedule an appointment when needed. 
    If you are in pain but no longer have a follow-up checkup, schedule one to record it.
  • Describe the level of pain. 
    Medicals often use a pain scale from 1 to 10, with one being barely there and 10 experiencing a broken bone. The description can also denote the nature of the injury. Deep pain ache often points to bone and muscle problems. A zapping pain means the nerves are affected. The description of pain can determine the level of injury and what other parts of the body are injured.  
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for a pain medication prescription. 
    If you are no longer prescribed pain medications but you believe you need them to do your daily activities, then ask your doctor to prescribe you pain medications. The prescription and receipt for the medicine can also be added as proof that the medication is needed for your pain.
  • Tell your doctor of your difficulties with daily activities because of the injuries. 
    Report your daily difficulties to your doctor, from getting out of bed to climbing the stairs or using the bathroom. By doing so, they can add it to their doctor’s notes in your medical records.
  • Tell your doctor of your work difficulties because of the injuries. 
    Report to your doctor the difficulty you are having doing your job. If your pain and injury make it difficult to concentrate on your work or to do safe and proper movements, have your doctor add it to their notes.
  • Take date-stamped pictures of your injuries.
    Take photographs of your injuries with date stamps to record the progression of your injury.

Written Testimonies

Written testimonies from you and your doctor clarify the extent and nature of your injuries.

  • Doctor’s Notes
    Your doctor’s notes can include their opinion on your prognosis or likely outcome of your recovery and how it will affect you in the future.
  • Your Journal
    Keeping daily entries of your experience with your injuries can effectively record the extent of your disability and its impacts on your mental health.

Spoken Testimonies

Before the hearing, you and your lawyer can arrange for people to testify about “what you go through” because of your injuries from the accident. 

  • Medical Experts
    Your lawyer can contact a neutral, third-party health medical expert to explain the physical and mental impacts of your injuries.
  • Friends or Family
    Your family or friends can also testify as witnesses on how your injuries have affected your work, relationships, and other aspects of your life.

How is Pain and Suffering Calculated

There is no maximum amount in Washington to compensate for pain and suffering. There are two methods of calculating the settlement for pain and suffering damages:

Multiplier Method

In the multiplier method, medical bills are multiplied between a range of 1.5 and 5. The multiplier depends on the following as determined by the insurance company:

  • Injury severity
  • Prognosis
  • Impact on day-to-day life
  • If the plaintiff has fault in the accident

For example, a motorist experienced a broken bone and a concrete burn on his arm after a motor accident. Their total medical bill is $3,000. Because the injuries are mild-to-moderate, the insurance can use a multiplier of 2 and offer a settlement of $6,000 for pain and suffering plus other settlements.

Per Diem Method

Per diem or day method means that a financial amount is given for each day the plaintiff experiences pain and suffering that is expected to be long-term. 

For example, if a personal accident causes a spinal cord injury to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may take up to 2 years to recover. The insurance company may place a value of $200 each day with a settlement of $146,000, separate from the settlement for the plaintiff’s economic damages.

Getting your Pain and Suffering Settlement in Washington

To get your pain and suffering damages through the court and receive your actual settlement for it, your personal injury lawyer can do the following:

  • Help you file a claim and guide you through legal processes.
  • Advise you on appropriately responding to insurance adjusters who will attempt to persuade you to settle less.
  • Discuss strategies for securing pain and suffering settlement.
  • In some cases, protect your medical privacy when data about your injury must be shared with the defendant or their insurance company before creating a settlement.
  • Negotiate pain and suffering settlement if you or the lawyer find the initial settlement does not cover the losses enough.
  • Resolve evidence issues and other legal matters, such as the fault of the accident, to increase your settlement.

Here at Note and Kidd, we proactively keep you up-to-date with your case and guide you through settlement negotiations with the defendant, your insurance company, or theirs. With over 1,000 successful and diverse cases in our belt, let us make your case part of your proven track record. Get a free consultation with us to start.

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