You might know the term “pain and suffering.” You also probably have a general idea of what it means.
What you might not realize is that this term can mean something specific in personal injury cases. It’s usually used as a legal term when a lawyer, judge, juror, insurance provider, or certain other individuals or entities say it or reference it in various documents.
In the following article, we’ll get into what “pain and suffering” usually means. We’ll also talk about when it might be appropriate for you to use that term if you’re bringing a personal injury claim against an individual or entity.
What Exactly Does Pain and Suffering Mean?
According to Chaffin Luhana Law Firm, pain and suffering are considered “non-economic losses related to personal injury.”
If you bring a lawsuit against an entity or individual, you might go after them for economic losses. There are several things that could be.
For instance, you might try to recoup lost wages if you can’t work for a time because of an injury you sustained or an illness you contracted. You may try to get back the money you had to pay to cover medical bills, including doctor visits, surgery costs, prescription drugs, or medical devices. You might want the cash back you spent to cover rides to and from your medical appointments while you couldn’t drive because of your injury.
All of those losses are tangible, meaning that you can put a dollar amount on them. Non-economic losses, for which a lawyer might use the term “pain and suffering,” might be a little harder to quantify.
A Lawsuit’s Anatomy
If you bring a lawsuit against a person or entity, you can tally up what you feel they owe you based on economic losses, provided that you can come up with documentation proving your assertion. You’ll also have to rely on a good lawyer to prove that you can hold the individual or entity you’re accusing to be liable for your injuries or illness under the law.
That’s going to be up to your lawyer. They will know how to investigate your case and come up with the material evidence to back up your story. They might call upon material or expert witnesses to convince the jury.
At the same time, the opposing counsel will try to rip your story apart. They might attempt any tactic imaginable to disprove what you say happened. They may also try to get the jury to believe that you’re at least partially responsible for your illness or injury. If they can, their client might not have to pay as much if the jury still decides against them.
How Can You Determine Pain and Suffering Costs?
As we stated before, it’s always going to be easier for a lawyer to put a dollar amount on economic losses when you bring a lawsuit. Your attorney is going to have to cite precedent when it comes to your pain and suffering.
They will research similar cases to yours before you ever set foot in a courtroom. If they know that similar cases brought specific pain and suffering (non-economic loss) amounts, then they will know approximately how much to ask for when they appeal to the jury.
They can ask for any amount, even if it seems to be much more than your pain and suffering are worth. It’s just not too likely that the jury will grant it, or anywhere close to it, if there’s no precedent and it doesn’t seem justified.
What Specifically Might Pain and Suffering Cover?
You also understand now that “pain and suffering” is supposed to cover non-economic losses. But what, specifically, might you include in that category?
It could be many different things, but companionship loss is often one of them. You’ll see this among pain and suffering damages if you bring a wrongful death suit on someone’s behalf. You’re asserting that the defendant owes you money because their action or inaction killed a person you loved, and they deprived you of this person’s presence for the rest of your life.
The term “pain and suffering” might also literally mean physical pain. If an accident injured you, and you’re trying to hold the individual or entity liable who you feel caused that accident, your lawyer might also stress that you suffered physically because it was a painful injury.
For example, if you fell and fractured your arm in a store because the floor was wet and there were no signs posted, and then you had to go through months of physical therapy, that would be painful. The lawyer can try to put a dollar amount on that pain that you can get back from the defendant.
What Else Might this Term Cover?
Maybe the accident disfigured you. You will have to live the remainder of your life with some highly visible scars. You’ll likely want financial compensation for that. You would probably put that under pain and suffering’s “suffering” portion.
Perhaps you can no longer enjoy some aspects of your life that you once could before the accident. Maybe you can’t play with your kids in the backyard any longer because of the damage your body sustained. You can certainly put that in the “suffering” category as well.
There is also something that the legal system calls “emotional distress.” You might go after a defendant for that as well, but it’s not as common. You and your lawyer are alleging that the defendant did something that, through negligence or by intention, caused you undue emotional distress on top of the pain and suffering.
For instance, maybe you had to see and hear a loved one die due to someone’s action or inaction. A jury will likely consider that emotional distress and award you additional damages because of it. However, cases, where you pursue both pain and suffering and emotional distress damages, are rarer.