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How Much Will I Get for Pain and Suffering From a Car Accident?

by John Gomez | Last Updated: April 22, 2021

A car accident can inflict a wide range of injuries that vary in their type, impact, and expense. Victims of car accidents frequently may obtain compensation for their injuries by taking legal action with the help of an experienced lawyer. In those cases, the compensation they secure could include payment for pain and suffering.

Let’s explore how much money you might obtain for your pain and suffering after getting hurt in a car accident.

About Pain and Suffering Damages

Through a lawsuit, car accident victims may have the ability to obtain what are known as compensatory damages, meaning damages that compensate them for the harm they have suffered.

Broadly speaking, compensatory damages fall into two categories: economic and non-economic.

Economic damages are monetary costs inflicted by a car accident and its resulting injuries, such as medical bills and wages lost from missing work.

Non-economic damages are the non-monetary harms of getting hurt in a car accident.   In other words, it is how the accident and your injuries impact your life.

Pain and suffering is a type of non-economic damages. It seeks to account for the physical discomfort and emotional anguish a car accident victim endures because of a car accident.

Pain and suffering encompasses a broad range of car accident-related impacts on your life and challenges, such as:

  • Physical discomfort;
  • Emotional anguish and other mental health struggles;
  • Limitations on physical mobility;
  • How an injury interferes with maintaining personal and intimate relationships; and
  • How an injury impairs your ability to enjoy life.

Every person’s pain and suffering is unique. To understand what pain and suffering might mean in the case of your car accident injuries, speak with an experienced car accident lawyer today.

Putting a Value on Pain and Suffering

Most crash injuries cause life difficulties, and so, pain and suffering damages play a role in virtually all car accident claims.

However, unlike economic damages, which you can calculate relatively easily by adding up medical bills, lost wages, and other purely monetary effects of an accident, putting a value on pain and suffering damages requires subjective evaluations of how badly a victim has struggled, and of the size of the challenges the victim faces today and in the future.

In other words, every car accident claim for pain and suffering differs. Every car accident injury has unique details, and every person experiences the physical, emotional, social, and everyday effects of an injury in his or her own way.

In addition, pain and suffering involves subjective judgments about the impact of harm a victim has suffered. Factors related to the geographic, environmental, social, and cultural context in which the evaluation of pain and suffering takes place can also play a role.

The factors that can go into evaluating a victim’s pain and suffering damages include:

  • The nature and severity of the victim’s injuries;
  • The part of the body affected by the injuries;
  • The degree of physical discomfort typically associated with the injuries;
  • Whether the injuries will heal or are permanent;
  • Whether the injuries cause a disability and, if so, the impact of that disability;
  • The mental health effects of the injury;
  • The everyday impact and limitations of living with the injuries;
  • The circumstances of how the victim suffered the injuries (e.g., were they extreme or terrifying in their own right?);
  • The state and/or geographic region of the country where the injury occurred and where the claim for damages would go to a court for a jury to hear;
  • The victim’s age and pre-accident state of health; and
  • Public perceptions of how deserving a particular victim is of compensation.

As these factors suggest, an evaluation of pain and suffering damages, if left in the hands of a jury, can lead to widely varying amounts of compensation for the victim.

Some state legislatures have tried to rein in this unpredictability (and the potential for massive jury awards) by limiting pain and suffering damages in certain types of cases, or by basing them solely on mathematical formulas tied to the economic damages.

Insurance companies, too, often use mathematical formulas to try to predict the range of pain and suffering damages a victim might receive from a jury, so that they can attempt to settle cases within a reasonable range of values.

For these reasons, predicting the amount of pain and suffering damages any particular victim might get from a car accident case becomes a highly fact-intensive exercise. You cannot necessarily trust online calculators or other back-of-the-envelope estimates for pain and suffering damages, because they rarely (if ever) account for the subtle factors that may have major impacts on the size of an award.

The most reliable way to predict the amount of pain and suffering compensation you may receive in connection with your crash injuries is to speak with an experienced car accident injury attorney in detail about your case.

Types of Injuries That Often Warrant Substantial Pain and Suffering Awards

As we said above, almost any car accident injury will cause at least some pain and suffering. However, some types of injuries—particularly those that result in permanent disabilities for the victim—tend to warrant pain and suffering damages that may far-exceed the economic damages portion of a claim.

Here are a few of them.

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), ranging from concussions to massive brain bleeding and tissue death, can cause significant, long-term impairments and disabilities. A TBI disrupts brain function. Depending on the location of the injury within the brain itself, the injury can affect consciousness, or a victim’s motor, cognitive, social, and emotional skills. The brain, in many ways, makes each of us the unique human beings we are. Traumatic brain injury can, quite literally, make us seem to ourselves and others like someone different, and for that reason, it can lead to large pain and suffering damage awards.
  • Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) frequently result in the victim becoming permanently paralyzed. In addition to inflicting massive economic costs, these injuries take a heavy toll on victims’ physical and emotional wellbeing. They can shorten a person’s lifespan, and they often deprive victims of the ability to participate in life as they once did. For these reasons, SCIs also frequently justify high pain and suffering damages.
  • Amputation or loss of functional use of a limb permanently alters a victim’s life. Some victims must adapt to using a prosthetic device. Others must go through life with a limb that does not work. In either case, loss of a limb tends to cause significant emotional trauma and physical limitation that warrant large pain and suffering damages.
  • Burns and other injuries that lead to excessive scarring can increase a pain and suffering award. If the scarring is visible, such as on your face, hands, or another part of your body often seen by others, the emotional distress from the injury can last a lifetime.
  • Back injuries and other injuries that lead to chronic pain also frequently justify higher-than-average pain and suffering awards, because of the debilitating toll the physical discomfort they cause can take on every aspect of a victim’s life. Chronic pain increases mental health struggles, limits physical activity, impairs sleep, and diminishes a person’s ability to enjoy life.

Pain and Suffering in the Case of the Death of a Loved One

The untimely death of a spouse, child, parent, or other loved one inflicts profound suffering on those left behind. Survivors of the deceased victim of a fatal car accident often have the legal right to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Depending upon the state where you live, as part of that lawsuit you may have the right to seek pain and suffering damages:

  • On behalf of the deceased victim, for pain and suffering endured before death; and/or
  • On your and your family’s behalf, for the pain and suffering you face because of your loss.

Every state has its own unique rules about the types of pain and suffering damages available to grieving families in the aftermath of a wrongful death in a car accident. Consult with an experienced car accident and wrongful death attorney to learn about the laws that apply in the state where you live.

How Attorneys Prove Pain and Suffering Damages

To prove damages for a client’s car accident injuries, an attorney needs evidence. To obtain that evidence, experienced lawyers often conduct a thorough analysis of the nature and severity of the client’s injuries, and of the life impacts the client faces now and into the future.

Evidence of pain and suffering from a car accident can take many forms.

It may include:

  • Medical records documenting the nature and extent of injuries;
  • Photographic and video evidence of the effects of injuries;
  • Testimony from the victim about living with the injuries;
  • Testimony from the victim’s loved ones and friends about the injuries and their impacts; and
  • Reports and testimony from medical and mental health experts who have examined the victim, and can explain the victim’s current and future challenges.

Having collected that evidence, skilled car accident lawyers compile it into written claims and court filings, and prepare to present it in-person in meetings, court hearings, and at trial if necessary.

A lawyer’s goal in gathering, organizing, and showing the evidence is to convince decision-makers—including defense attorneys, insurance adjusters, judges, and juries—of the merits of the client’s claim for maximum pain and suffering damages.

The more evidence the attorney possesses, and the more persuasive the attorney’s presentation of that evidence, the higher the likelihood of the victim obtaining a favorable pain and suffering award.

How to Protect Your Right to Receive Pain and Suffering Damages

Car accident victims understandably want to obtain as much compensation as possible for their injuries and losses. Pain and suffering damages form a part of that compensation, and so victims sometimes want to know what they can do to help ensure maximum payment for their pain and suffering.

Every case differs. However, in general, the rule for maximizing your pain and suffering damages is to do as much as you can not to live in pain and not to suffer emotionally.

That may seem counter intuitive. However, the reality of seeking pain and suffering damages is that insurance adjusters, defense lawyers, judges, and juries feel better about compensating people who try to help themselves, than they do about awarding large amounts of money to victims who do little to improve their own situations.

Accordingly, car accident victims should always try their best to heal from and adapt to their injuries. That starts with seeking appropriate medical care and following doctor’s orders. It also means keeping medical appointments, going to therapy sessions, taking medication, and learning to live with assistive devices like prosthetics and wheelchairs.

Attorney John Gomez

Personal Injury Attorney, John Gomez

No one expects you to be Superman or Superwoman. The people who decide on the side of pain and suffering damages will never blame you for your disabilities or for the pain they cause. You can protect your rights to receive pain and suffering damages simply by doing what you can (within reason) to cope with the difficulties a car accident caused you.

The Importance of Quick Action

Time is of the essence when it comes to securing the pain and suffering damages you deserve. The sooner you speak with an experienced attorney about your car accident injuries, how they have already affected your life, and how they may take a toll on your future, the easier the attorney can secure critical evidence and build the strongest possible claim for you.

Remember, too, that pain and suffering damages are not the only type of compensation you might deserve after an accident. Securing money to pay for your economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages, also constitutes an important motivating factor for speaking with an attorney right away after you suffer car accident injuries.

Contact a skilled car accident attorney today for a free case evaluation.

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