What You Need to Know About Making a Claim for Pain & Suffering

Nearly everyone has heard the term pain and suffering in connection of personal injuries, but not everyone understands what the term really means. If you find yourself wondering if you should include pain and suffering as part of your personal injury case, there are some things you should know.

What is pain and suffering?

There are two types of pain and suffering: physical and mental. Both must be the result of the original injury you suffered due to the negligence of another. Pain and suffering (even if the pain and suffering is mental) is generally associated with a physical injury, but this is not always the case. To understand how the two work together, you must first understand the legal definitions of pain and suffering.

  • Physical Pain & Suffering: This refers to both the pain and suffering experienced at the time of the injury and the pain and suffering experienced after the injury. For example, if you were in an auto accident and suffered from a back injury and you will continue to have issues with your back for months or years, you can claim the pain and suffering you experience after the incident, too.
  • Mental Pain & Suffering: If you experience negative emotions after the original injury, you may be entitled to mental pain and suffering. Negative emotions include anger, fear, depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, loss of sleep or any other psychological symptoms. However, be aware that the mental pain and suffering must be great enough to interfere with your ability to live a normal lifestyle. For example, it is normal for most people to experience temporary anger or fear after an accident but it does not interfere with their functioning at home or at work.

Can you make a claim for pain and suffering without a physical injury?

While pain and suffering is most often associated with a physical injury, according to FindLaw, you can file a claim for pain and suffering if you suffer extreme emotional distress and you can show that the offending party exhibited behavior with the intention to inflict mental pain and suffering. But his actions must be deemed "extreme and outrageous."

What does "extreme and outrageous" really mean?

There is no legal definition for the term "extreme and outrageous". Under the legal guidelines for determining if an act was an intentional infliction of mental stress case, extreme and outrageous means more than being insulting or offensive. It means going beyond the acceptable norms of society to become intolerable, atrocious or beyond decency.

Who decides if you have experienced pain and suffering?

Although your attorney will make a case outlining your pain and suffering to try to convince the jury, the jury ultimately decides whether the pain and suffering exists. Bear in mind that the defendant's attorney will try to convince the jury that you did not experience pain and suffering as a result of either a physical injury or a case of extreme emotional distress. It is vital that you and your attorney provide documented evidence of your pain and suffering, such as testimony from your doctor or psychiatrist or other reliable sources.

How is the monetary award for pain and suffering calculated?

Again, the monetary award for your pain and suffering is in the hands of the jury. The jury may use a multiplier between 1.4 to 4 to calculate the monetary award for pain and suffering, explains NOLO. This means the jury members may multiply your special damages by this number to arrive at the monetary award for pain and suffering, but members of they are under no obligation to do so. They are typically instructed to use their judgement in making the award.

If you feel that you are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, talk to resources like Bennett & Sharp PLLC to learn more.