Pain and suffering mean different things to different people and vary depending upon the context and the situation. In the law, however, pain and suffering are very well-defined and pretty specific. This is because one of the main drivers of the law is to make the victim whole again and part of that quest requires that the pain and suffering of the victim be quantified as much as possible.
While the law does not necessarily put a specific dollar figure on individual pain and suffering – for example, there is no minimum amount for a leg injury or brain injury – the law does recognize different categories of pain and suffering. Pain and suffering of course come in different varieties and different durations.
Some accident victims will have short term pain and suffering due to immediate injuries suffered in an accident while others will have long-term or even lifetime pain and suffering depending upon the severity of the accident or their injuries. The law takes these differences into account and recognizes that someone dealing with a few months of pain should not be compensated as much as someone who will be dealing with a lifetime.
There are many kinds of accident victims that may benefit from talking to an auto accident lawyer.
There are also different types of pain and suffering ranging from cognitive impairments to emotional trauma related to the accident to injuries that restrict the person’s abilities to carry out their activities of daily living. One victim may deal with a lifetime of temporary memory loss with no actual pain while another victim may develop severe anxiety and depression such that they can no longer leave their house. While these types of injuries are not “typical” pain and suffering that we commonly think of, they are devastating and life-altering nonetheless.
The law recognizes that all of these different injuries will have deleterious effects on the quality of life of the victim. The law also recognizes that the injuries can have a negative impact on the quality of life of the victim’s family. For example, loss of income of the victim can impact the victim’s family including their spouse and children. The cost of the victim’s rehabilitation can tax the family’s resources. Depending upon the injury, the victim’s spouse may suffer from loss of consortium or the ability to enjoy the quality of life with their spouse that they had prior to the accident.
In quantifying or putting a number on pain and suffering, garden variety pain and suffering is usually measured by looking at the victim’s medical bills and then using a multiplier anywhere between one and five, or higher in cases of serious injuries, to reach a final total. Loss of income during rehabilitation, rehabilitation costs, and loss of future income are also fairly easy to quantify based on actuarial tables and the earnings record of the victim.
The hardest question is putting a number on loss of quality of life of the victim or their family and loss of consortium. There are no receipts or prior figures to look to for help. In these cases, the court will look to what previous cases have valued these damages at and go with something similar.