Pain and Suffering Worth and Reason, Personal Injury Cases

If you or a loved one is injured due to someone else’s negligence, how do you determine what your personal injury claim is worth? Different types of damages are potentially recoverable in a personal injury claim including:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future pain and suffering, including physical and mental pain and emotional anguish
  • Past and future lost wages
  • Impairment of earning capacity
  • Reduced enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium suffered by a spouse
  • Loss of services if the injured party is a child

In this post, we will focus on what constitutes pain and suffering damages, and how to prove pain and suffering in a personal injury claim.

What Constitutes Pain and Suffering?

Proving pain and suffering in a personal injury claim can be very challenging since pain is completely subjective, and can vary drastically from person to person. Pain can be physical and/or emotional, and can last a short or long period of time, depending upon the person, the severity of the injury suffered, the duration of the recovery period, any complications suffered, and the long-term prognosis.

Physical pain can be described in a variety of ways from annoying or nagging to sharp, throbbing, burning or stinging. Physical pain can be constant or intermittent, and depending upon the level of pain, can cause a partial or total failure of your ability to function in your regular activities of daily living at work and at home. Pain can also be mental or emotional and can include feelings of fear, anguish, anger, withdrawal, inability to focus, or anxiety, and can also affect your ability to function in your normal daily life.

Since pain and suffering are so subjective, the best way to illustrate is through objective comparison of what you were able to do before versus after the injury. We recommend creating a detailed diary outlining everything you were able to do before and after your injury, and how it has affected your daily life both physically and emotionally.

As the injured party, examine and outline in as great a detail as possible what activities you did in your home life, work life, and what you did for fun and relaxation before and after the injury, your emotional and mental response to these regular activities, and how you respond since the injury. Do you still engage in these activities, but now with pain, or do you avoid them completely? Is your work life different since your injury? How is your inaction with colleagues and clients? Has the injury affected your personal relationships?

For example, what types of physical activities did you participate in before the injury? Did you

  • Engage in outdoor activities like biking, hiking, fishing or hunting?
  • Play sports for fun or on a team?
  • Volunteer?
  • Enjoy gardening or yard work that now is done by someone else?
  • Fix up things around your house?
  • Engage in artistic pursuits like crafting, scrapbooking, photography, painting or music?
  • Regularly attend and participate in your church?
  • Travel regularly?
  • Enjoy a wide circle of friends?
  • Attend sporting events, movies, or the theatre?
  • Enjoy eating out frequently, or cooking at home for family and friends?

This list is just an example of some of the activities that may be negatively impacted by an injury.

Next, how is your work life affected by your injury? Are you still able to perform the same physical requirements of your job including sitting or standing for long periods of time, lifting and carrying, pushing or pulling, or working with your extremities? Since your injury

  • Are work restrictions in place?
  • Are your working hours reduced?
  • Is the opportunity for overtime (and the ability to earn additional money) reduced or eliminated?
  • Have the job duties or work responsibilities changed?
  • Have you been demoted or passed over for advancement?
  • Did you lose your job or were you forced to retire?

Emotionally, since your injury do you

  • Experience fear, anxiety, depression, or suffer from other types of emotional distress?
  • Have difficulty sleeping?
  • Have emotional or angry outbursts?
  • Take medication to help with emotional pain?
  • Avoid activities that you used to love?
  • Feel disconnected from family and friends?

Your doctor also needs to outline in detail in your medical records their medical opinion on whether you will have a short or long-term injury, any permanent physical restrictions you must follow, and future medical care to treat your injury.

Individuals evaluating your claim for pain and suffering damages, including your doctor, your attorney, the insurance company adjuster, or possibly a judge and jury, will view your pain and suffering damages claim more favorably the more details you can provide as to how the injury negatively affects you at home, work and play, and emotionally, before and after the injury. These details, coupled with supporting documentation from your treating doctor, can provide the roadmap to support a personal injury claim including monetary damages for pain and suffering.