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How Much Pain and Suffering is Enough to Sue?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

When you're injured, whether by accident or intentionally, you may also want to sue for "pain and suffering." But what exactly is "pain and suffering," and how do you get a court to award damages for it?

Not all injuries will lead to damages for pain and suffering. Simply being annoyed or inconvenienced by a minor injury, for example, usually won't cut it. (As TV's Judge Judy often says when dealing with litigants' unfounded pain-and-suffering claims, "The only one suffering here is me!")

In general, damages for pain and suffering can be awarded for past, present, and future physical distress in a personal injury case. A jury typically considers several factors in its deliberations and calculations, such as:

  • The age of the injured victim. Younger victims may get larger pain-and-suffering damages, if they will have to deal with pain for the rest of their lives.
  • The type of injury. Brain injuries, and injuries that cause continuing physical pain, will generally result in larger awards.
  • How the injury affects the victim. This includes consideration of past, present, and future pain and suffering -- including the certainty of future pain.

Jurors who consider pain-and-suffering claims are generally asked to "reasonably compensate" the victim for non-economic losses. But jurors usually don't get much guidance from the court, and instead defer to their personal experience and common sense.

That's why pain-and-suffering awards can vary greatly, depending on the facts of the case and the jury. A lack of guidance may also be why jury awards for pain and suffering are frequently modified.

Aside from these general provisions, states and local jurisdictions may also impose their own limits on pain-and-suffering damages. Florida, for example, limits pain-and-suffering awards to $500,000 per doctor in medical malpractice cases.

Other states may require a victim to be conscious for a period of time during the injury, while others may allow a jury to automatically assume there's pain and suffering in certain types of injury cases. A local personal-injury attorney can help to assess if your case is appropriate for a pain-and-suffering claim.

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