Updated May 2, 2022

What Is Considered Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident?

Compensation for car accident victims generally falls into two categories: special damages and general damages.

Special damages, or economic damages, are quantifiable monetary losses with measurable dollar amounts. Medical bills, lost wages, and vehicle repairs are all special damages. General damages, on the other hand, are non-economic; they are intangible and do not have an exact dollar amount. One type of compensation that falls into this category is pain and suffering.

What Is Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering refers to the physical and mental anguish victims experience after a car accident. It does not include easily calculated medical expenses. Instead, pain and suffering covers the overall loss of comfort, ability, happiness, and opportunity that follows serious injuries.

Examples of Pain and Suffering

Both physical pain and emotional suffering fall under this category of damages. Examples of physical pain and suffering include the following:

  • Long-term disability
  • Shortened life expectancy
  • Present and future physical limitations
  • Complications to daily life
  • Physical pain and discomfort
  • Significant disfigurement, such as scars, amputations, or burns
  • Loss of bodily function
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)

Similarly, here are some examples of emotional pain and suffering:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Loss of enjoyment of life or things you used to do
  • Mood swings
  • Fear, anger, or humiliation

You may be able to include other types of non-economic physical and mental harm as pain and suffering in a car accident claim. An experienced car accident attorney can help you determine what qualifies as pain and suffering in your case.

Why Do I Need an Attorney?

Suing for pain and suffering after a car accident is complicated, and it’s in your best interest to find an experienced car accident lawyer to be your advocate. You will need a legal professional to not only calculate your damages but also to justify your pain and suffering to an insurance adjuster or jury.

Don’t put your car accident case at risk. Find the right Indianapolis personal injury attorney for you.

How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?

While medical bills, vehicle repairs, and lost wages are straightforward to quantify, pain and suffering damages are not so easy to calculate. Since the true cost is difficult to put into a monetary amount, your attorney will use one of several approaches to calculate your pain and suffering and then justify those calculations to insurance companies, judges, and juries as needed.

Multiple Method

One approach insurance companies and attorneys take to calculate pain and suffering is the multiple method. It involves rating pain and suffering on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most severe, and multiplying that number by your total special damages.

For example, the medical bills and other special damages of a car crash victim total to $50,000. With an estimated 4 on the pain and suffering scale, general damages amount to $200,000. The total combined award for both special and general damages in this case would be $250,000.

Factors Affecting Calculations

Judges, juries, and insurance adjusters consider a number of factors when calculating pain and suffering damages. They may look at the following:

  • Types of injuries suffered
  • How long the pain lasted
  • Severity of the pain
  • Location and nature of scarring or disfigurement
  • Effect of the pain on the victim’s life
  • Recovery time
  • Anticipated future problems
  • Age of the victim at the time of injury
  • Evidence from attorney

Any combination of these factors can play a part in pain and suffering calculations.

How Can I Prove Pain and Suffering Damages?

To prove the pain and suffering in your car accident claim, you must provide clear documentation of your mental anguish and physical pain in the weeks and months following the crash. Medical records, daily journal entries, witness statements, and photographs can help your attorney argue for fair pain and suffering compensation.

Document Everything

For any personal injury case, medical records and other relevant documentation are key pieces of evidence. When it comes to pain and suffering, doctor’s notes about the longevity of your injuries as well as pain management plans can help support your claim. Additionally, if you experience PTSD, depression, anxiety, or other types of psychological trauma, take notes at any therapy sessions or appointments with mental health practitioners.

Keep a Detailed Journal

A personal journal or diary containing descriptions of your pain and suffering can show an insurance adjuster, judge, or jury how your injuries impact your everyday life. Write about these factors:

  • Duration, level, and location of your pain
  • Frustration from being unable to work or perform daily tasks
  • Humiliation from needing help with bathing or personal hygiene
  • Fear of lifelong disability and pain
  • Sadness, depression, or anxiety
  • Heartache from missing special occasions, family gatherings, or holidays
  • Intensity of mental and physical anguish

Include as many descriptive details as you can.

Collect Witness Statements

Witness statements are often gathered from the accident scene as part of a car crash investigation. However, they are also useful pieces of evidence showing your life after the accident.

Ask family members, friends, neighbors, and caretakers to describe what your life has been like since your accident—what you can and cannot do, how your personality has changed, and what tasks they must now perform for you.

Take Photographs and Videos

Photographs and videos are an excellent way to help judges, jurors, and insurance adjusters visualize your pain and suffering. Images of you at the accident scene, in the hospital, and struggling with daily life after the crash can be extremely compelling.

Contact an Automobile Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, contact an Indianapolis car accident lawyer of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family fight for the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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