One of the reasons it’s important to hire experienced personal injury lawyers is because they help their clients prepare for court and avoid costly errors. No part of a case requires this expertise more than determining what kind of damages to seek. In a recent blog, we explained the different kind of damages that might come into play as part of car accident settlements in auto injury lawsuits. Here, we’ll dig deeper into one of the most commonly misunderstood types of car accident compensation: pain and suffering.
What Isn’t Pain and Suffering
The first thing to understand about pain and suffering is that simply experiencing some pain may not be enough to make a claim, and not all auto injury lawsuits include pain and suffering damages. There is no law that requires insurance companies to award these damages (which is why you’ll probably need to ask for them in a demand letter or go to court — your auto accident injury attorney will help you decide which route is more beneficial). In some states, a threshold is set below which you are not eligible for pain and suffering compensation.
What Is Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering covers not only bodily harm, but emotional distress. The latter might cover depression, anxiety, memory loss, the inability to play with your children, the inability to have intimate relations with your spouse or other kinds of mental trauma. Injuries with extended recovery times or permanent effects are also more likely to result in a pain and suffering award. These might include loss of a limb, burning or scarring.
Calculating Pain and Suffering
There are two common methods used to calculate pain and suffering damages. The first takes the value of your economic damages and multiplies it by a number (typically between one and five) depending on the severity of your injuries. The second is a “per diem” approach that multiplies a set amount by the number of days between the accident and your maximum recovery point. If you’re trying to find a fair ballpark figure with which you can start negotiations with an insurance company, then it’s often recommended you use both methods and pick a point somewhere in between them.
Showing Evidence of Pain and Suffering
The more evidence you can show to convince either the insurance company or the jury that your suffering was significant and prolonged, the more likely you are to get the settlement you’re seeking. Common types of evidence used to support claims include medical records showing you sought prompt treatment, proof of picking up prescriptions, receipts for over-the-counter medications, medical bills (ambulance pick-ups, x-rays, emergency room visits, physical therapy, etc.), proof of either lost wages or time off from school, photos of injuries, and logs of treatment schedules and missed activities.
Did you know that there were 35,244 fatal car accidents in the U.S. in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, and many more crashes in which people were injured? With figures like that, it’s no surprise that personal injury law is growing at a slow but steady pace of 1.9% a year, according to IBIS World research predictions. Use the comments to share your tips for choosing the best possible attorney to handle an auto injury lawsuit.