If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligent actions, you’re probably aware you can seek compensation through a personal injury claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance for your losses. Perhaps you’re even aware that if the insurance provider who services that policy fails to compensate your claim, you can file a personal injury lawsuit for the court to decide whether the at-fault party was liable and how much compensation they owe you. You’re certainly aware that accident injuries have a multitude of negative effects and that serious injuries impact nearly every part of the sufferer’s life.
However, many injured in an accident are unaware they can seek compensation for psychological costs, such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress. This type of compensation is known as non-economic damages and is an important part of your claim’s overall value. Here is a look at how much compensation a personal injury claimant can get for non-economic damages.
The Kinds of Psychological Impacts Commonly Experienced After an Injury
For many, being injured in an accident is a traumatic experience with long-ranging consequences. The initial psychological responses to trauma often include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, agitation, numbness, anxiety, dissociation, and blunted affect. Over time, however, this initial trauma gives way to the reality of the injury and the changes it causes in the sufferer’s life.
Physical Pain and Suffering
Depending on the severity of the injury suffered and the part of the body injured, a person can experience pain lasting a few days or chronic pain lasting throughout the sufferer’s life. Studies indicate that one in four people who suffer a traumatic injury will have moderate to severe pain 12 months after the trauma.
One in three will suffer significant pain and disability three years after their injury. Interestingly, poorly controlled physical pain in the first week after injury increases the risk of an individual experiencing severe pain a year after the injury by two to three times.
Individuals who suffer serious accident injuries often deal with the emotional trauma and distress that comes from having their life become dramatically changed by the accident. These feelings can include helplessness and pain from witnessing someone else become severely injured or even killed and fearing for one’s life.
For many people, the symptoms of emotional trauma subside over time. However, trauma symptoms linger for others and can even develop into post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or other mental health conditions. Others face the distress of their injury impacting their ability to work, the physical—and often painful—adherence to medical treatment and rehabilitation of the injury, changes in the activities they can participate in, and even changes in the relationships they have with family and friends.
Loss of the Enjoyment of Life
As noted in an article published in Psychology Today, hobbies serve many needs in an individual’s life, such as helping them structure their time, promoting active leisure, fostering new social connections, and adding richness to one’s self-concept. Unfortunately, however, hobbies often depend on the physical health of those who enjoy them. When an individual is seriously injured, they are often no longer able to participate in hobbies and activities they enjoy, resulting in losing all those benefits.
Loss of Consortium
The psychological impacts of a serious injury not only impact the injured party but also produce significant impacts on their loved ones. Many serious injuries result in changes in sexual desire, preference, or arousal, depriving the injured party’s spouse or domestic partner of the physical intimacy and companionship they had previously enjoyed in their relationship.
What is Pain and Suffering in Terms of a Personal Injury Claim?
According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, pain and suffering is a common term for non-economic damages. These damages are a compensate an individual for the psychological impacts of their injury , such as pain, discomfort, anguish, inconvenience, and emotional trauma. It is often one of the largest categories of compensation available for a claimant.
There is no standard amount of pain and suffering damages available, as this reflects a unique set of impacts experienced by the injured party. When an experienced personal injury lawyer establishes a value to a client’s claim, they will consider certain factors when determining how much to seek for pain and suffering.
These factors include:
- The amount of insurance the at-fault party has. Insurance policies have policy limits, which dictate how much compensation is available for the claimant’s injuries.
- The severity of the injury. More severe injuries generally require longer hospital stays, more frequent and painful treatments, and a greater chance of chronic pain or permanent physical impacts.
How Do Lawyers Calculate Pain and Suffering?
When establishing the value of a personal injury claim, most lawyers use a multiplier method to account for pain and suffering:
- Your lawyer will add up all of the out-of-pocket expenses that you incurred due to the accident, such as medical expenses, income loss, lost earning capacity, and property damage.
- Your lawyer will multiply the total economic damage claim by a number. The more severe the injuries, the higher the number used. This amount is the total non-economic (pain and suffering) damage claim.
- Your lawyer will add together the total economic and non-economic damage amounts to arrive at an overall value of the claim.
How an Attorney Can Help You Get the Pain and Suffering Compensation You Need
An experienced personal injury attorney understands that the psychological impacts of the injury are often the hardest part to handle. There are several ways that an attorney can assist you as you seek the amount of pain and suffering compensation you need. Here is a look at those services.
Gathering Evidence that Proves Pain
After an accident, there can be several different investigations. Law enforcement or other governing agencies can investigate the accident to determine if any laws or regulations were broken. The at-fault party’s insurer can investigate the accident to learn the extent of their insured’s liability. However, your personal injury lawyer’s investigation of the accident is to gather the evidence needed to prove your claim or justify its value.
Some of the evidence that can help justify the value of your non-economic damage claim include:
- Medical records indicating extensive treatments for the injury, particularly records that indicate that the claimant was experiencing pain.
- Expert testimony from a medical professional with experience in treating that type of injury, who can speak to the physical pain likely experienced by the claimant.
- Expert testimony from a mental health professional who has treated the claimant for the psychological impacts they suffered due to the accident or injury.
- Photographic or video evidence showing the types of activities that the claimant was able to do before the accident in comparison to their abilities following the injury.
- Testimony from family members or friends about the impacts of the injury on the claimant’s life or entries from journals in which the claimant discussed the psychological impacts of the injury they are enduring.
Managing Communication with the Insurance Provider
Generally, a personal injury claim is first filed against the relevant liability insurance policy held by the at-fault party, such as an auto liability policy, homeowner’s, business, or property insurance policy.
When you submit the claim, the provider who services the policy will assign a claims adjuster to evaluate it and determine whether the insured is liable. If so, the adjuster must also determine how much compensation the company owes to the claimant. While this sounds like an equitable process, it should be noted that the insurance company employs the claims adjuster to protect its bottom line.
Claims adjusters frequently engage in questionable practices to reduce or evaluate claims, such as telling the claimant that there is no compensation for non-economic damages or pressuring them to accept a settlement far below the value of their claim.
An attorney can manage communication with the insurance provider to protect the claim’s value from such tactics and keep the conversation focused on negotiating a settlement that fairly compensates the claimant.
Helping You to Understand Your Claim’s Value
While an attorney plays a crucial role in helping those injured in accidents caused by someone else’s negligence to obtain the compensation they need, one thing they cannot do is make decisions for their client. Whether to accept a settlement or file a lawsuit are decisions that are yours alone to make.
Your attorney can assist you in your decision-making by giving you guidance and information that will help you understand how your claim is valued and what constitutes a fair settlement so that your decisions reflect your interests.
Ensuring that You File Your Lawsuit on Time
One of the most important factors in whether you can obtain compensation for your claim is ensuring that you file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a legal deadline for certain types of claims. For example, claimants in Pennsylvania usually have two years from the injury to file their claim in court, while claimants in Florida usually have four years to file a lawsuit. Failing to file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations will normally result in the loss of the claimant’s right to use the court process when seeking compensation for their injury’s financial and psychological costs.
If most cases are resolved by a settlement, why does it matter if the claim is filed within the statute of limitations? Because litigation is a legal consequence for insurance providers who fail to pay for their insured’s negligence. By removing your ability to litigate the matter, you’ve removed the sole reason why many insurance companies fairly compensate claims: to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation. The insurance provider will almost certainly deny the claim without this consequence, leaving it uncompensated.
Your attorney can manage the timing of your claim to ensure you file before the statute of limitations expires.
Making Sure You Can Afford Quality Legal Services
Most people are afraid of the costs of an attorney, and with little wonder, seeing that every legal drama on television and in the movies indicates legal counsel costs some unimaginable amount. In truth, personal injury lawyers use a contingent fee billing method to ensure that everyone who needs their services has access. The contingent fee billing method allows the claimant to wait until after a positive outcome to their claim to pay for their attorney.
Here is how it works:
- When you hire an attorney to work on your claim, they will ask you to enter into a contingent fee agreement. This agreement explains the services to be provided and designates a percentage of the compensation from a settlement or court decision as payment for the attorney’s services.
- The legal team can begin working immediately on the case, and the claimant will not receive a bill for the work done.
- At the conclusion of the claim, the attorney will receive the compensation on the claimant’s behalf. They will deduct the payment for their services, meet with the claimant to finalize the case, and will turn the remainder of the compensation over to them at this time.
If an accident injured you, let an experienced attorney help you understand the pain and suffering damages available for you. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for your free case evaluation.