If you've been involved in a car accident, you're likely to experience not only physical pain but also emotional distress and mental anguish. Depending on the severity, an auto accident can lead to serious injuries, from whiplash and broken bones to disfigurement, creating lasting physical and mental impacts. But the good news is, under personal injury law, accident victims may be entitled to pain and suffering damages in addition to compensation for medical bills, property damage, and loss of wages.
Understanding Pain and Suffering Damages
Pain and suffering is a legal term encompassing not only the physical pain and bodily injury resulting from an accident but also emotional pain and mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress and loss of enjoyment of life. In a car accident case, pain and suffering damages fall under noneconomic damages, i.e., compensation for subjective, nonmonetary losses.
Pain and suffering damages can sometimes exceed the amount awarded for medical expenses. They compensate for both physical injuries and the accident's emotional distress. This distress can stem from:
- The trauma of the accident
- Medical treatment
- The impact of physical limitations or disfigurement caused by the accident
Valuing Pain and Suffering Damages
Insurance companies often use a multiplier method to calculate pain and suffering in a personal injury claim. This method takes the dollar amount of your medical bills and multiplies them by a number, typically between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of your injuries.
If your medical bills total $10,000 and the multiplier chosen is 3, your claim for pain and suffering would be $30,000. However, the use of multipliers can vary widely. Your car accident attorney can help you understand how these are applied in your jurisdiction.
Another method is the per diem approach. This assigns a daily value to the pain and suffering experienced by the victim. The sum is determined from the date of the accident until the victim reaches maximum recovery.
The valuation of pain and suffering is inherently subjective. A car accident lawyer can offer valuable assistance in substantiating your claim, for instance, through medical records and testimony about your emotional distress and mental anguish.
Pursuing Pain and Suffering Damages
Pursuing a pain and suffering claim begins with filing a car accident claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company. If you are dealing with your own insurance company, keep in mind they may not always offer the fairest compensation. Having a personal injury attorney on your side can be valuable.
Before receiving a demand letter, the insurance adjuster will:
- Investigate the claim
- Review the accident report
- Consider any property damage
- Evaluate the accident's impact on your life
During this process, the adjuster may ask for a recorded statement, but it is not recommended to do so without having an attorney present. Do not discuss details about your injury initially. Some injuries may not present until later, and some adjusters may not accept your additional injuries.
Your demand letter will detail your injuries if the insurance company's offer does not adequately cover your losses. Your personal injury lawyer will:
- Build your personal injury case
- Negotiate with the insurance company
- Take your case to court (if necessary)
What Can Affect Your Claim?
Several factors can impact the value of your pain and suffering settlement. The nature and extent of your injuries, the impact on your daily life, your recovery period, and even the policy limits of the at-fault driver's car insurance can all influence the final dollar amount.
Each state has a statute of limitations. It places a time limit on how long you have to file a claim after a car accident. You could lose your right to pursue compensation if you miss this deadline.
Free Case Evaluation and Legal Advice
For a potentially free case evaluation, reach out to a qualified car accident lawyer. Remember, each case is different. While online resources provide a general idea of what you can expect, they are not legal advice. For instance, the average pain and suffering settlement for car accidents is often between $15,000 and $30,000. Your case could fall below or far exceed this average based on specifics.
Legal representation can make a substantial difference in your case, helping you work through complex insurance claims, gathering and presenting necessary evidence, and ensuring your rights are protected.
Examples and Real-Life Scenarios
Consider John, a 35-year-old father who suffered broken bones and a concussion in a car accident caused by a reckless driver. John also suffered post-traumatic stress that led to insomnia and anxiety. This impaired his ability to work and enjoy life with his family. In this case, John may be entitled to pain and suffering damages for his physical injuries and emotional and mental distress.
Jane, a 28-year-old woman, was in a minor car accident that resulted in soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash. While she didn't break any bones, she developed a fear of driving. She also experienced recurring nightmares about the accident. Even though her physical injuries were less severe, Jane could still pursue pain and suffering damages due to the emotional and psychological trauma caused by the accident.
A Lawyer Can Help
This article serves as a general guide. For legal advice, consult a personal injury lawyer to understand how the laws apply to your unique situation. The severity of car accident injuries, the level of pain and suffering, and the applicable laws can affect your potential settlement or verdict.
Remember, the health and well-being of you and your family members is the most important. Seek immediate medical treatment after a car accident. Follow your doctor's advice. Get legal advice to secure the compensation you and your loved ones deserve.