Filing a personal injury claim can leave you with many complicated questions regarding your compensation. How do insurance companies calculate the damages you might deserve following your accident? Can you pursue compensation for pain and suffering in addition to the compensation you might need for direct medical and other expenses related to your accident?
Talking to a lawyer can help you get a better idea of the compensation you might deserve for your injuries, including how compensation for pain and suffering might factor into your claim.
What Is Pain and Suffering in an Insurance Claim?
Damages for pain and suffering cover the non-economic damages related to a serious accident.
When you suffer serious injuries in an accident, you may find yourself dealing with several potential financial struggles. You may, for example, find yourself dealing with high medical bills, or end up losing a great deal of your income when you cannot work due to your injuries. Those items, usually referred to as special damages, include direct financial components that you can usually determine by looking at the actual value or cost of those claims.
Pain and suffering, often referred to as general damages, include everything else.
#1. Actual physical pain from the injuries
Frequently, serious injuries involve substantial physical pain. For example, if you suffer broken bones in the accident, you may have ongoing pain as your injuries heal, or even for some time once you can get back on your feet and go back to work. Serious injuries like burns may also cause substantial physical pain.
#2. Emotional anguish due to your accident
Often, pain and suffering include the emotional anguish and challenges you may have faced as a direct result of your accident. For example, if you suffered a spinal cord injury, you might end up with a significant loss of independence, which could cause you considerable emotional distress. Many people also struggle with PTSD, anxiety, or depression from their accidents and the limitations that came with it.
#3. The limitations you have to deal with
Many injuries can lead to long-term limitations that permanently impact the way you live life, whether they impact your ability to work or the way you engage in many of your favorite leisure activities.
You may, for example, find that you can no longer engage in the activities you once enjoyed most, or that you have to miss out on planned activities with friends and family members. Those limitations may decrease over time as you heal from your injuries, or, in the case of catastrophic injuries, you may have some limitations that stay with you for the rest of your life.
#4. The things you have to miss out on
Sometimes, serious injuries result in a range of limitations, including limits on the things you might once have enjoyed. For example, you might have to miss special trips with friends and family members or outings that you cannot enjoy because of your injuries. Those losses can further increase a great deal of the emotional distress often associated with a serious accident.
Do Insurance Companies Pay Pain and Suffering?
Many insurance companies include calculations for pain and suffering as part of the compensation they offer you. However, keep in mind that many insurance companies will not pay out compensation for pain and suffering automatically or adequately.
In many cases, when you receive a settlement offer from the insurance company, it may include only your direct medical expenses, or even a percentage of the medical expenses. In some cases, it may also include some of the wages you lost as part of the accident.
If you have serious injuries from an accident, consult an attorney regarding the compensation you might deserve for pain and suffering and how to make sure the insurance company includes it as part of your claim.
How is compensation for pain and suffering included in my settlement or court award?
Most of the time, insurance companies and lawyers will break down the compensation you deserve after your accident based on specific, key elements of your damages. However, your final settlement offer will likely include a single check, not a detailed breakdown.
As you negotiate your settlement offer, the insurance company may issue an offer that includes a total sum, rather than an offer that includes a direct breakdown of the compensation you will receive for each element of your claim or even one that includes compensation for special damages and general damages, or pain and suffering, separately.
How Do Insurance Companies Calculate Pain and Suffering?
To arrive at a fair assessment of the compensation you might deserve for pain and suffering, a lawyer will use one of two methods.
Sometimes, lawyers will start looking at the overall compensation you deserve for the accident. Generally, that includes the cost of your medical expenses and the wage loss you have faced as a direct result of the accident. Then, the lawyer will multiply that amount to come up with the compensation you might deserve for pain and suffering.
Other lawyers and insurance companies will calculate compensation for pain and suffering on a per diem basis. Instead of calculating compensation for pain and suffering based on a percentage of the losses you have faced, your lawyer will assign an amount for pain and suffering per day, then multiply it by the number of days it takes you to make a full recovery from your injuries.
How Do I Know How Much Compensation I Deserve for Pain and Suffering?
If you have questions about the compensation you might deserve for pain and suffering related to your accident, start by talking to your lawyer. A lawyer can help break down the losses you have faced as a direct result of your accident, then help you assign a financial value to even those losses that do not have a direct financial component.
Your lawyer may ask several questions to help establish the compensation you may deserve.
#1. Did your injury cause significant pain, or do you have a type of injury known to cause significant physical pain?
In some cases, even with theoretically serious injuries, you might not experience substantial physical pain, especially if you have a doctor who helps manage your condition well. On the other hand, some injuries can cause draining, ongoing physical pain that can make it very difficult for you to pay attention to anything else, including taking on other tasks. Dealing with that pain can become all-encompassing. Talk to your attorney about the physical pain you may have endured during your recovery.
#2. Have you faced a mental health diagnosis related to your injuries?
Some patients who have suffered serious physical injuries go on to receive quantifiable mental health diagnoses related to their injuries. You may have increased anxiety, depression, or PTSD symptoms related to your injuries. As a result, you may have a hard time coping with the daily activities of living that you once took for granted. For example, if you suffer from PTSD after a car accident, you might find it very difficult to get in a car or drive past the location where your accident occurred.
You may have the right to claim additional compensation if your mental and emotional health significantly impacted your ability to heal from your injuries. In addition, if you have a mental health diagnosis, you may include the cost of treatment for that ailment as part of your personal injury claim.
#3. What limitations have you had to deal with as a direct result of your accident and your injuries?
A broken leg could prevent you from hiking, biking, or running, all of which could pose substantial limitations, especially if you are accustomed to living an active lifestyle. If you suffered more serious injuries, you may have ongoing limitations that can affect you for the rest of your life.
Suppose, for example, that you suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident. Due to your injuries, high stress levels make it very difficult for you to deal with people. You might find your social life dramatically changed due to the accident, even if you still have supportive friends and family members around you.
Furthermore, you may have a tough time dealing with sudden changes in your life, which means that it may prove much more difficult to change jobs, move, or engage in any new activity for the first time.
Speak candidly with your lawyer about the limitations you have faced. Share how your injuries have impacted your life. If you lived a relatively active lifestyle before the accident, you may find it very difficult to transition to a sedentary lifestyle required by severe injuries. Your lawyer will use all the information you provide regarding your limitations to fight for additional compensation.
#4. How long did your limitations last?
Some injuries cause only short-term limitations which, while frustrating, you can overcome as you heal from your injuries. Others, however, can cause long-term limitations, including those that can impact every area of your life.
Short-term limitations can leave you temporarily unable to engage in some of your favorite activities. Long-term limitations may permanently change what you can do, where you can go, and even who you can interact with, especially if you have friendships founded on hobbies that you can no longer enjoy. Share information about the lasting impact of any limitations, including lingering pain that could prevent you from enjoying the things you once did.
#5. Have your limitations or injuries had any impact on your relationships?
Some injuries may permanently change how you interact with your friends and loved ones. You may, for example, lose friends because you can no longer participate in an activity that you once shared, or you may find that you cannot relate to people on the same level as you were once able to. Sometimes, injuries may interfere with your relationship with your spouse or your kids. Talk to your lawyer and provide an honest assessment of how your injuries have affected those vital relationships.
#6. Will you require future medical care as a result of your injuries?
Your lawyer can include future anticipated medical expenses as part of the special damages in your injury claim. However, future medical care may also bring future challenges: additional pain, more suffering, and the potential for further limitations on your life and your ability to enjoy the things you usually enjoy.
Talk to your lawyer about your potential future medical needs and the impact you expect them to have, especially if you know that your injuries will cause the need for multiple treatments or long-term treatments.
Contact an Attorney to Discuss Pain and Suffering Damages After Your Accident
If you have questions about the compensation you may recover after an accident caused by another party’s negligence, including how much compensation you might recover for pain and suffering, a personal injury lawyer can help.