Accidents can leave you feeling a wide range of emotions. Shock, fear, and pain are all common responses to an unexpected accident. But while these feelings are normal, they are not something you “just have to live with.”
If your injuries result from someone else’s negligence, the law may entitle you to financial compensation. This compensation may include pain and suffering. To learn more about your rights after an accident and what to expect next, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
What is pain and suffering?
Under the law, an accident victim has the right to recover reasonable damages (i.e., costs) from the responsible party. Typical costs include medical bills and lost wages. But the law also recognizes that injuries often result in pain and emotional distress. For this reason, personal injury claims can also include non-economic damages, or as they are commonly called, pain and suffering.
When an insurance company looks at pain and suffering, they generally consider how your life has changed due to your injuries. Are you in constant pain? Do you have to readjust your schedule to attend doctor’s appointments? Pain and suffering looks at the whole picture. Examples of pain and suffering include:
Whether you tripped over an unmarked curb or someone rear-ended you at a traffic light, you may be dealing with pain. Pain is never fun. It can interfere with your quality of life and make it difficult to do things that were once easy before. When the insurance company considers your pain, they will look at your pain level, how long doctors expect it to last, and if it prevents you from living your life.
Common physical pain you may experience after an accident includes:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Facial pain
- Rib pain
- Radiating arm and leg pain
If your pain did not show up immediately, that does not mean it was not related to your accident. Many injuries can result in delayed pain, so sharing any new symptoms with your care providers is important.
Emotional pain or mental anguish
People often overlook their mental health after accidents. But a fall, motor vehicle collision, or any other type of accident can be a traumatic experience. A recent study found that victims of car accidents had a high rate of PTSD and depression after their accident. If you cannot cope with your accident or subsequent injuries, seek appropriate medical attention. Treatment options are available and may help you find relief.
In addition to PTSD and depression, your personal injury case may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
Loss of enjoyment
We all count on little moments of joy to get us through the hard parts of life. When you cannot do things that once made you happy, it can tremendously affect your quality of life. Whether you can't participate in activities because of your physical limitations or these activities no longer bring you joy, this is a loss that you cannot discount.
Loss of consortium
Cornell Law defines loss of consortium as “Deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship.” In other words, if you are unable to provide for your family physically, emotionally, or financially, your case may include loss of consortium.
Examples of loss of consortium include:
- Loss of guidance
- Loss of affection
- Loss of a sexual relationship
How do insurance companies value pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering is subjective, and each insurance company has a formula to quantify this loss. This is one reason it is hard to estimate the value of a case accurately. However, many factors can influence the value of your case, including:
The severity of your accident
You cannot take a picture of your pain, but you can take a picture of the accident. And while the severity of your accident may or may not directly affect your actual pain and suffering, it can affect how the insurance company values it.
In any personal injury case, there is a chance you will have to go to court. Insurance companies know juries react to shock value and will automatically jump to conclusions about how bad your pain is and what you deserve based on the picture alone. For this reason, the insurance company may offer you a higher settlement if it deems your accident “more serious.”
The extent of your injuries/estimated recovery time
Whether you are in chronic pain or need to go to weekly doctor appointments, the insurance company will look at your quality of life. The extent of your injuries and estimated recovery time can help the insurance company get a better picture of what your life looks like moving forward.
Your supporting evidence
While the insurance company will listen to what you say about your personal experience, evidence can help support your claim. Your medical records will provide important evidence. From this, the insurance company can evaluate your prognosis and review your symptoms. They may also want to talk to your care providers.
Beyond your medical files, other evidence may include:
- Pictures of the accident
- Witness testimony, including family and psychologists
- Personal journals
- Photos of your injuries
Three factors that can reduce the value of your personal injury case
Remember, insurance companies are always looking for ways to pay you less. They will look for anything to undermine your claims, regardless of how you feel. What you say and do after an accident matter.
Common items the insurance company will scrutinize include:
- Your credibility. There is always a chance your case will go to court. And if the insurance company thinks you are a bad witness, they are more likely to let it go to court. Always be truthful about what happened and how you are feeling. Lying or exaggerating your symptoms can hurt your case.
- Your history. The insurance company will do a deep dive into your social and medical history. If you have any previous health conditions or accidents, the insurance company will find them. If you have any preexisting conditions, the insurance company will likely claim they caused your pain, not the accident. Once again, it is important to be truthful. Tell your attorney about any previous injuries or accidents. Just because you had a preexisting condition, that does not mean your accident did not aggravate your condition.
- Your activity. It is not uncommon for insurance companies to thoroughly review a victim's social media accounts or track their daily activity. Some insurance companies even hire private investigators to follow you to catch you doing something wrong. It is never a good idea to talk about your accident on social media or post pictures of the accident. You should also avoid posting any pictures or participating in activities that may have the insurance company question the validity of your claims.
Other costs included in your personal injury case
Personal injury cases typically include economic and non-economic damages. Pain and suffering falls under the non-economic damages category. Economic damages are any costs that have a direct, computable value. These are costs you can prove with a receipt or a paystub. Examples of economic damages include:
Did you know that the average cost of a three-day stay in a hospital is approximately $30,000? Health care costs are one of the biggest expenses after an injury. A personal injury case aims to recover all medical costs, dollar-for-dollar.
These costs can include:
- Hospital stays
- Doctor visits
- Medical equipment
- Lab tests
- Travel costs to and from appointments
While most cases only include costs incurred after the accident and through settlement negotiations, severe injuries may merit future medical costs.
Slip and fall accidents represent 85 percent of all workers’ compensation claims. They are also the leading cause of lost time at work. The thought of losing a paycheck can be scary. Thankfully, if you can show that your injuries prevent you from being able to return to work, your attorney will likely fight to include lost earnings as part of your claim.
If the severity of your injuries prevents you from ever returning to your previous position, your attorney will likely fight for future lost income. You may qualify for worker retraining if you can return to work but in a different position or lesser capacity.
Serious injuries, such as spinal cord injuries can limit your mobility. This may make it difficult to move around your own home. If you cannot get in and out of your home or move around safely, you may be able to fight for costs to cover accessibility modifications to your residence.
How an attorney can help you prove pain and suffering
One of the most common reasons accident victims choose to deal with the insurance company on their own is they are afraid they cannot afford to work with an attorney. But the real question is, “can you afford not to?” Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means you do not have to pay unless you win.
You have to realize that insurance companies know they can get away with offering you less if you do not have an attorney. The sad truth is, they are not as likely to offer you what you deserve without proper representation because they count on you not knowing the actual value of your case. An experienced personal injury attorney will not only help you fight for a fair and reasonable settlement but will also take care of all the legal dealings so that you can focus on your recovery.
Beyond settlement negotiations, you can expect your attorney to:
- Review and organize all evidence
- Talk to your care providers and facilitate referrals
- Negotiate billing arrangements
- Set up and conduct mediations and depositions
- Interview your care providers and witnesses
- Request and review your medical records
- Prepare for and represent you in court if necessary
- Reconcile final billing and issue you a check
Do not ignore your pain and suffering. Fight for what you deserve.
An unexpected injury can turn your life upside down. Many times, the effects of an accident extend far beyond the visible injuries. Your pain and suffering matter and you deserve a settlement that compensates you for the pain you are going through.
Do not let anyone tell you that your pain does not matter or it is just something you need to tough out.
After an accident, you have the right to a fair and reasonable settlement. Stand up for your rights, and do not be afraid to fight for what you deserve. To learn more about your rights after an accident or injury, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.