Personal-injury cases can be very trying. Usually a personal-injury case means you are the injured party and you are dealing with medical and legal issues at the same time, which can be mentally and emotionally taxing. It can also mean you are the one who caused the injuries, and you have to deal with the possibility to paying out thousands (or millions!) of dollars to the victim of your negligence, and that can be emotionally and mentally draining.
It is for these reasons that many personal-injury cases result in settlements rather than a trial – it creates closure much more quickly and saves attorneys and court time, which alone can spike the bills into very high proportions according to our incomes.
While a personal-injury lawsuit can lead us to some emotional pain and some suffering, is that alone worth a pain-and-suffering claim on top of the personal-injury claim? No. Pain-and-suffering claims are real and do exist, but juries are instructed to take a hard look and tightly scrutinize the validity of a pain-and-suffering claim.
Each case is different, so we can’t give a blanket response that filing a pain-and-suffering claim is a good or bad idea. There are things to look for to determine if you have a good pain-and-suffering claim, however, and a good attorney can counsel you on whether to include such a claim in your personal-injury suit.
Just because you suffer some pain and suffering does not justify a claim for compensation. A minor fender-bender that leaves you with headaches or minor back pain won’t necessarily rise to the leve l of a pain-and-suffering claim, especially if the injuries are so minor that you don’t lose any time from work, or your time-loss is covered by vacation or personal days that are paid.
A pain-and-suffering claim can be valid if the injuries you suffer cause mental, emotional or physical trauma that does not heal quickly. If you have an extended hospitalization, or if you have physical or mental issues that extend long past a hospital visit and yet can be traced back to the personal-injury event (something that was not already present prior to the incident), a claim could be filed seeking compensation above and beyond the costs associated with the event itself.
The items a jury are likely to consider in a pain-and-suffering claim are:
- How severe are the injuries? Will the victim be suffering long after discharge from the hospital? Did the victim lose organs or a body part? Will there need to be regular therapy, and for how long?
- How old is the victim? The size of the award may figure in here. Someone who is younger and will suffer for a longer period of time may get a larger award than someone who is older and may suffer from “old age” as much as from the incidental injuries.
- How much suffering? Are the injuries just an inconvenience or a nuisance, or is the pain severe enough that it inhibits the victim’s ability to live his or her normal life? A neck brace that is temporary won’t necessarily warrant a pain-and-suffering claim, but an otherwise able-bodied person being in a wheelchair due to paralysis would be cause for a claim. Measuring your suffering along that spectrum is important.
While most of this discussion is about physical injuries, it’s possible that mental and emotional injury could be grounds for a pain-and-suffering claim, especially if the incident can be determined as the cause for behaviors such as alcoholism or drug abuse, or if a victim suffers from depression or anxiety or has a fear of driving a car because of a particularly violent accident.
There are mental and emotional issues in their own right that could be debilitating enough to warrant such a claim, but again it comes down to understanding what the jury is looking for and getting counsel from a good personal-injury attorney who can tell you honestly whether you have a legitimate pain-and-suffering claim above the personal-injury claim.