What is Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case?

Everyone has some idea of what pain and suffering means in regard to life’s regular experiences. However, from a legal perspective, “pain and suffering” has a specific definition and meaning. In many personal injury cases, pain and suffering have some estimated value that the “at-fault” party (or his or her insurance) must provide compensation for causing it. Compensation for pain and suffering is an extra amount. It is determined separately from the direct expenses and loss of income experienced by the injured party.

The Legal Definition of Pain and Suffering

NOLO’s Plain-English Law Dictionary gives the legal definition of pain and suffering as physical or emotional distress resulting from an injury. At first, this definition seems surprisingly short and to the point. However, it encompasses a vast range of things considered to cause pain and suffering.

A Provable Injury Must Cause the Pain and Suffering,

One important consideration is that “pain and suffering” in a legal context must result from an injury. If there is no injury, there cannot be compensation paid for pain and suffering. Pain and suffering might still exist without anyone being liable for causing it.

For example, almost being injured is not the same as experiencing an actual injury. If a person suffers emotional distress from a close-call, a lawsuit is possible only under narrow circumstances. The emotional distress must be diagnosed by a doctor, with the treatment given, and it must have some physical manifestation. Something observable by the doctor must support the diagnosis.

Saying that you suffer from emotional distress is not enough to prove it. A bystander to a horrible accident who saw it but was not physically harmed will have an extremely difficult time proving emotional distress. If you are not sure about your circumstances, get a free consultation with a personal injury attorney.

What are some examples of physical and emotional distress?

Assuming an injury caused the pain and suffering, here are some things that are considered physical or emotional distress.

Examples of physical distress are:

  • Loss of an eye, hand, foot, limb, or another significant part of the body.
  • A permanent disability caused by the injury, such as full or partial paralysis.
  • Scarring or disfigurement caused by the injury.
  • Chronic pain resulting from the injury.

Examples of emotional distress are:

  • Career disruption due to the injury.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, phobias (fears), and other mental health problems.
  • Diminished quality of life or loss of enjoyment in life.
  • Suffering embarrassment, humiliation, frustration, or anger.
  • Experiencing sleep disorders and other psychological traumas.
  • If the injury caused a death, emotional distress could include grief, mental anguish, and a loss of consortium. A loss of consortium is the loss of things only the deceased person could provide, such as love, affection, intimacy, care, companionship, etc.

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Many other things might qualify for an award that includes an amount for pain and suffering. A jury in a trial determines this amount. If the case settles out of court, there may not be a specific line-item in the settlement offer to cover pain and suffering. It is included in the total settlement amount.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury that was someone else’s fault, which caused pain and suffering, contact a personal injury attorney by calling (281) 475-4535 or filling out the web form for a free consultation.