Pain and suffering damages refer to an award given by the court to the plaintiff for physical and/or emotional pain due to injury, illness, or loss. These damages are not the same as compensatory damages, which reimburse the plaintiff financially, but are meant to assist the plaintiff with the pain inflicted by the defendant.
What Are Some Examples of Pain and Suffering?
The court may award pain and suffering damages for a variety of ailments. Generally, if a plaintiff has suffered harm as a result of the defendant’s conduct, the court will look at the correlation between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries.
Common instances in which damages are often awarded include:
- Emotional trauma, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
- Bodily injury and its lasting effects.
- Grief over the death of a loved one.
- Limitation of personal activities.
- Potential shortening of life.
Phantom pain can also be awarded in a pain and suffering damages case. This usually occurs as a result of surgical amputation, in which the patient still experiences pain or discomfort in the area where the body part was removed.
If a defendant has caused the plaintiff’s phantom pain, they may be liable for extra rehabilitation costs, prescriptions, and other medical bills associated with the amputation.
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When Am I Entitled to Damages for Pain and Suffering?
If you have been injured and are experiencing any form of pain and suffering, you may be able to obtain damages by immediately filing for the award in your initial lawsuit. As soon as you are aware of physical or mental trauma, consult with your attorney to take prompt action.
Some instances of pain and suffering occur later on, but a plaintiff may still be eligible for damages, so long as they are filed within the statute of limitations. The following are factors the court will consider before awarding damages:
- Evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claims.
- The type of injury, duration, and severity of pain.
- Pre-existing conditions of the plaintiff.
- The injury’s effect on the plaintiff’s enjoyment of life.
- Future issues that may arise in connection with the injuries.
How Much Can I Recover for Pain and Suffering, and Are There Limits?
Federal law and the Constitution place no limits on pain and suffering damages, but many states have limited the amount of awards in some form. For example, some states restrict the award to 3 times the amount of actual damages, while others may cap the award anywhere from $250,000 to $875,000. Your attorney can advise you on how much you may be entitled, based on your state’s regulations.
How Is Pain and Suffering Proven?
In and of itself, the pain and suffering of an individual can be subjective and very difficult to prove. Medical experts are typical witnesses in these cases, and the court takes into consideration other factors in its analysis, including:
- The extent of the injury, as well as the medical diagnosis and prognosis.
- Length of time that the symptoms have been presenting..
- Physical or mental limitations in the plaintiff’s daily life (e.g., work, school, everyday tasks).
- Accounts of other individuals with similar injuries, and the extent of their reported pain and suffering.
What Are Pain and Suffering Settlements and Can They Be Disputed?
Personal injury settlements are a cost-effective method of staying out of court by both sides coming to a mutually binding agreement. Since pain and suffering can be difficult to measure and a highly debatable subject, many cases are settled before they get in front of a judge.
Since this type of settlement is usually legally binding, it cannot be disputed unless new facts emerge that could change the case’s legal analysis and standing. If both parties can agree on new modifications, they may be able to alter the settlement. If an agreement is not reached, it may need to be presented in court.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Personal injury cases involving pain and suffering damages can be emotionally taxing and difficult to prove, particularly without legal representation. An experienced personal injury lawyer can build your case, obtain expert witnesses, and represent your best interests in court.