What is “pain and suffering?”
If you are hurt because of someone else’s negligence, whether it is an auto accident or another type of personal injury case, you are entitled to payment of full and fair compensation for your injuries from the person or company that was responsible – that includes compensation for pain and suffering.
Some elements of your damages – referred to as “economic damages” – are easy to calculate because there are medical bills, payroll records, or other types of written documentation of what you have paid or what you will owe to medical or other service providers.
Pain and suffering, and other types of “non-economic damages,” can be more difficult to put a price tag on, however. Jurors may be reluctant to award money for an abstract concept like pain and suffering when there are no hard and fast numbers on paper that you can point to, and insurance companies will attempt to short you by leaving pain and suffering out of their calculations when they offer to settle your case…
How do you calculate pain and suffering, and how can you prove pain and suffering to insurance companies or to jurors when an insurance company refuses to fully compensate you?
What Does Pain and Suffering Mean in SC Courts?
According to the SC Supreme Court, “an award for pain and suffering compensates the injured person for the physical discomfort and the emotional response to the sensation of pain caused by the injury itself.”
Pain and suffering is subjective – there are no medical bills or other objective measures of how much compensation is enough. It compensates for the physical pain caused by your injuries – broken bones as they heal, bruises, aches, and other types of physical discomfort – as well as the emotional pain suffered as a result of the injuries.
The pain you suffer from the accident may be temporary as your injuries heal, or, in some cases, your injuries could result in permanent damage – you are entitled to compensation not only for past pain and suffering but also for future pain and suffering.
Other Non-Economic Damages
Pain and suffering is only one type of non-economic damages that are available under SC law. For example, according to the SC Supreme Court, “[s]eparate damages are given for mental anguish where the evidence shows, for example, that the injured person suffered shock, fright, emotional upset, and/or humiliation as the result of the defendant’s negligence.”
Another separate category of non-economic damages is “loss of enjoyment of life.” Although the loss of your ability to perform everyday activities surely causes pain and suffering, jurors can award separate damages for loss of enjoyment of life when:
- You have lost the use of one or more of your senses (you were blinded by the accident, for example, or your hearing is damaged);
- You have lost the ability to participate in physical activities because you are now wheelchair-bound, or your physical abilities are limited; or
- Your injuries result in the inability to “enjoy all of life’s pursuits.”
Another example of a separate damages claim is disfigurement. If you are scarred or disfigured in some way as a result of the accident, looking in the mirror at your scars may cause you pain and suffering, but jurors can separately calculate damages for permanent disfigurement…
How Do You Calculate Damages for Pain and Suffering in SC?
Pain and suffering compensates you for all pain that is caused by your injuries, which could include:
- The shock and pain of the initial accident;
- Ongoing pain as your injuries heal;
- Nerve damage caused by the accident;
- Head trauma and brain injuries;
- Painful treatments or surgeries;
- Emotional trauma caused by your injuries; and
- Future pain and suffering for permanent injuries.
None of these examples come with a neat, tidy invoice with a dollar figure on it, however. How do you calculate pain and suffering to communicate your demands to the insurance company or to jurors at trial?
The Multiplier Method
Insurance companies, jurors, and plaintiff’s attorneys sometimes use what we will call the “multiplier method” to arrive at a number for pain and suffering.
You take the total amount of economic damages – the damages that you can quantify with medical bills or other written statements – and multiply that by a number to arrive at either 1) the total damages award or 2) the pain and suffering award that should then be added to the total economic damages award.
But what number do you use to multiply? It could be one, two, or fifteen – it depends on the severity of the injuries, the potential for punitive damages if the case were to go to trial, and whether you are asking the plaintiff’s attorney or the insurance company’s attorney…
The insurance company will minimize your injuries, minimize your suffering, and attempt to exclude or pay minimal non-economic damages, while your attorney will demand full and fair compensation which will almost always include compensation for pain and suffering and any other category of non-economic damages to which you are entitled.
The Per Diem Method
Assuming that you are healthy today, how much money would make you agree to suffer a broken arm for a day? A week? A month?
What is it worth to feel mind-numbing pain from nerve damage for 24 hours? A month? A lifetime?
A per diem method of calculating damages for pain and suffering can be useful, although, as always, the insurance company will attempt to minimize your pain and the amount of money they must pay.
How Do You Prove Pain and Suffering Damages?
Although you don’t have a bill or invoice to present for your pain and suffering damages, you must still prove pain and suffering whether it is to an insurance adjuster or to jurors at your trial. How can you prove pain and suffering?
In many cases, your attorney will be able to prove your damages through documents and testimony. For example:
- Your own testimony as to the pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of your injuries;
- Testimony of your family or friends as to their personal observations of the effect of your injuries and the pain that you have experienced;
- Medical or expert testimony about the pain that is caused by your injuries;
- Mental health testimony about your state of mind and whether you have experienced mental health injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); or
- Documentation of prescriptions for pain medications or mental health medications.
Like liability and causation, your damages must be proven before you can recover in either a settlement or a verdict at trial.
Personal Injury Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you are not documenting and demanding full and fair compensation for all non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, you may be leaving money on the table. The Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyers at Coastal Law will help you to demand full and fair compensation, which includes damages for pain and suffering caused by your injuries.
Ready to speak with a personal injury attorney? Contact Coastal Law to discuss your case. Call us at 843-488-5000 for a free consultation or use our online form.