Pain and suffering is one of the most misunderstood aspects of personal injury law: many people aren’t sure exactly what it means, what it covers, or how it’s calculated. Here’s what you need to know about pain and suffering, how it’s calculated, and how you can receive compensation for it.
What pain and suffering is not
Any medical expenses related to an accident—the cost of prescriptions, doctor’s appointments, surgeries, or hospital stays, for instance—don’t count toward pain and suffering. Additionally, pain and suffering doesn’t cover lost wages or property or vehicle damage. An accident victim is entitled to compensation for all of these things, as appropriate, but they exist outside the category of pain and suffering.
What pain and suffering is
Pain and suffering refers to a person’s loss of happiness, comfort, and opportunity as a result of their injury. For example, if a car accident leaves a person paralyzed, they will probably be unable to work, play sports, and enjoy their previous activities and hobbies. Their injury will affect the way they interact with friends and family. All of these considerations factor into pain and suffering compensation.
Of course, a less severe injury can also cause pain and suffering. A car accident may result in chronic headaches or a broken arm, which can significantly affect a person’s daily activities and cause them to suffer both physical and mental pain.
How pain and suffering is calculated
While medical expenses aren’t classed under pain and suffering, they can be used to help calculate it. Most insurance companies will use a multiplier somewhere between one and five, and multiply the total amount of medical expenses by that number. So, for example, if a person’s medical expenses totaled $10,000, pain and suffering might fall anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000. This amount would be awarded in addition to compensation for medical expenses.
Of course, this method is only a baseline or framework for calculating pain and suffering. Because each case is different, there’s no one formula that applies in every single instance.
One of the most effective ways to ensure that you receive just compensation for your injuries is to keep a daily log documenting any pain that you experience following your injury. Make a note of how severe the pain is and how long it lasts. And don’t forget to include mental as well as physical pain. Things like depression, fear, and anxiety related to your injury can factor into the amount you receive for pain and suffering. Keeping a record of these things will help your lawyer make a detailed, convincing case for how much compensation you should receive.
Seeking compensation for pain and suffering
If you experience pain and suffering through the actions or negligence of another person, you may be able to receive financial compensation. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering whether or not you should seek compensation. One of these is the statute of limitations, or the amount of time that has passed since you sustained your injury. For example, Maryland’s dog bite statute of limitations requires you to file your claim within three years of the day the bite occurred. Three years is the standard statute of limitations for most personal injury claims in Maryland, but even if three years have passed since the date of your injury, it may be worth consulting an experienced personal injury lawyer to find out if there are any exceptions in your case.