The Law Dictionary

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Three Essential Things To Know About Pain and Suffering

If you suffer an injury as the victim of another person’s negligent conduct, you might be entitled to collect damages. You will probably hear your attorney refer to pain and suffering playing a key role in the amount of damages you will receive by way of a settlement or in a jury verdict awarded after trial. There are three essential things you should know about pain and suffering to understand the value of your case.

Pain and suffering is a component of damages

Lawyers usually refer to pain and suffering as the physical or mental pain and anguish a victim experiences from having suffered a personal injury. Whether it is the result of a motor vehicle accident, a slip-and-fall, or any type of accident caused by another individual, the current and future pain you experience could limit your ability to live a normal life. For that reason, pain and suffering is as much a part of how courts and insurance companies decide on the amount of compensation you should receive as an injured party as are lacerations and broken bones.

The pain you suffer as a result of an injury could be either physical or emotional. Pain and suffering includes physical pain and mental pain or, as it is frequently referred to, mental anguish. An accident victim might suffer from any of the following examples of mental pain and suffering:

.   Depression

.   Inability to control anger or other emotions

.   Anxiety

.   Sexual dysfunction

.   Inability to sleep

.   Loss of appetite

In particularly severe cases, injury sufferers have been diagnosed as exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Treatment for conditions falling under the category of mental pain and suffering could include a combination of medication and counseling that might be required over an extended period of time.

Limitations on pain and suffering damages

Some states have laws imposing limitations the pain and suffering. States limit the recovery of pain and suffering damages in motor vehicle accidents unless the injured party can prove that he or she incurred medical and other out-of-pocket expenses exceeding a specific amount.

Methods of proving the existence of pain and suffering

Unlike broken bones and other types of injuries that can be exhibited to a judge or to a panel of jurors, it is difficult to prove the existence and degree of the pain, discomfort and mental anguish suffered by an accident victim. A journal or diary maintained by the victim might be one way to prove how his or her life has been affected by the injury.

Frequently, the testimony of friends and relatives of the victim might be used to establish the effect the injury had on the individual’s life. The testimony and written report of a psychologist or other mental health provider who treated the victim could also be used to establish the existence and extent of pain and suffering.

Deciding on a fair amount for pain and suffering is anything but an exact science. Attorneys and insurance adjusters sometimes arrive at a figure by multiplying the victim’s out-of-pocket expenses by a number from one through five that is supposed to represent the severity of the injuries.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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