Pain and suffering is a type of non-economic damage often awarded in personal injury cases. Although it can be implied that all personal injury cases result in pain and suffering, not all such cases result in the compensation of this non-economic damage.
This is because accidents result in various injuries of different degrees, and pain and suffering are subjective. One victim may be predisposed to suffer more from a traumatic event than another, reacting differently to the injuries and circumstances of their accident.
Although some victims, for example, may develop a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) condition as a result of their car accident or other event, other victims might experience only anxiety or other milder disorders for different amounts of time.
In most instances, pain and suffering as non-economic damage is more financially rewarding than economic damage such as property damage. However, proving pain and suffering in a personal injury case is a different story.
Generally, you must gather strong evidence and have proper legal representation to be awarded for your pain and suffering damages. At The Law Offices of Scott J. Senft, through our 25 years of serving South Florida residents, we have come to understand various instances of pain and suffering and have fought hard for our clients to receive proper justice and compensation for their troubles.
We believe that a strong attorney-client relationship is the basis for all personal injury claims, as without strong communication and bonding, sometimes the pain and suffering aspects of a claim might go unnoticed or underpaid.
Let our dedicated personal injury lawyers hear your story and evaluate your case through a free consultation today. Pursue justice with us! To understand exactly what pain and suffering are in a personal injury case in Florida, let’s analyze some personal injury laws and some pain and suffering settlement examples.
What Is Considered Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case?
The state of Florida views pain and suffering as physical and emotional distress experienced by personal injury victims as a result of the accident that caused them their injuries. Pain and suffering are considered non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages are non-monetary losses which are highly subjective. Apart from pain and suffering, other non-economic damages include loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, emotional distress, or loss of consortium, among others. The elements that are included in pain and suffering and the ways to prove pain and suffering in settlements are the following:
Physical pain plays a huge role in pain and suffering settlements. It refers to pain experienced by the injured victim immediately after an accident, the ongoing pain, and the chronic pain (if present) that resulted from the injuries.
To prove pain in a personal injury case, a victim can use their medical records to establish the injuries and physical pain. The medical records that describe the severity of the injuries experienced by the victim and the treatments, surgeries, and medications used can act as evidence.
Mental and Emotional Distress
Among the most devastating factors that can affect a person’s emotional and mental well-being are the death of another or severe personal injuries. Mental suffering or emotional distress can lead to various disorders, such as sleep disturbances, PTSD, depression, and other psychological effects. The emotional pain or mental pain can be showcased in personal injury lawsuits through expert testimony provided by experts such as psychologists.
These professionals can explain the long-term effects of such disorders and how they can affect an individual, reveal the prognosis, and a lawyer can use their arguments to connect the injuries and the pain and suffering experienced by the victim.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
An accident victim who experienced severe physical injuries may be left unable to enjoy the activities or hobbies they once loved before the accident. This can be caused by the loss of a bodily function or a mental condition that prevents them from participating in social or recreational activities as before.
To showcase this element of pain and suffering, a victim can use medical reports, personal, expert, or witness testimonies. In a personal testimony, a victim can describe exactly how the accident and resulting injuries affected their life and contributed to their inability to engage in certain activities or affected their ability to maintain relationships.
Witness testimonies can be used to highlight how a victim changed after an accident. Witnesses can be used to describe how accident victims experienced pain and distress or how the unfortunate events impacted their lives. Co-workers, friends, family members, and healthcare professionals can all act as witnesses and provide testimony to showcase pain and suffering in a personal injury case.
Loss of Consortium
When a family member loses their spouse or other close relative and pursues a wrongful death claim, they can seek compensation for the loss of support, companionship, or the ability to maintain a normal relationship with the injured victim due to the injuries that occurred. To prove this, a family member can use personal testimony to highlight their pain and suffering.
Scarring and Disfigurement
Scarring and disfigurement are among the worst aspects of serious injuries because even if the injuries heal, some forms of scarring or disfigurement will remain forever. This will permanently impact a person’s appearance and self-esteem.
Car accident cases, for example, often result in these types of injuries, and the victims rarely need strong evidence to showcase how these changes affected them. In a personal injury claim, victims can use, apart from photographic evidence, diaries, and journals to showcase their pain and suffering.
Visual representation of the injuries can act as powerful evidence of the extent and the actual severity of the injuries, while victims can use diaries or journals to document their pain levels, emotional state, limitations, and how their day-to-day life is impacted.
Pain and Suffering Damages
Compensation differs in many pain and suffering settlement examples. Florida, unlike other states, does not have a cap on non-economic damages. The only exception would be related to medical malpractice cases where practitioners cannot be held liable for more than $500,000. Yet, for other types of claims, with the exception of medical malpractice claims, pain and suffering settlements can reach various sums.
In a pain and suffering settlement, all economic and non-economic damages, and if present, punitive damages, are considered if applicable. The following elements will drastically influence any pain and suffering settlement amount:
Severity of Injuries
One of the most important aspects of establishing the pain and suffering damages of a personal injury case is the severity of the injuries. Injured victims who have suffered minor injuries, such as for example minor soft tissue injuries or broken bones, will not be compensated as highly as a victim who has suffered a severe spinal cord injury.
A spinal cord injury can result in long-term disability and chronic pain, and these factors will drastically increase the amount of pain and suffering a victim will have to go through. Similarly, the severity of the injuries can result in other damages, such as lost wages, scarring and disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, mental and emotional distress, and other aspects.
The pain and suffering attributed to these elements are subjective. They can reach various lengths of recovery periods, which in turn translates to more medical procedures, expenses, physical or psychological therapy, and more.
The severity of the injuries can also be photographed to strengthen the pain and suffering aspects of a case in and outside the courts. A personal injury attorney can help injured victims calculate pain and suffering settlement amounts to help them receive a better perspective on what they are entitled to should the circumstances of their case allow them to pursue legal action.
Medical Treatment and Expenses
The extent of medical treatment required and associated expenses will also influence the pain and suffering final settlement amount. Individuals may have to go through various surgeries and hospitalizations, take various medications, and undergo physical therapy or ongoing medical care for various lengths of time.
Every medical treatment and out-of-pocket expense related to the accident will be considered in settlements and will influence the final amount. The more medical treatments a victim will need, the higher their compensation claim, especially if they have to deal with a permanent injury.
Impact on Daily Life
All pain and suffering settlements will consider how the respective injuries affected the individual’s daily life. Some of the things that will be highlighted include the limitations experienced regarding physical activities, impact on personal relationships, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, mental anguish, and more.
It’s safe to assume that a public figure who suffered scarring and disfigurement as a result of their accident will have the possibility of pursuing a higher pain and suffering settlement amount. Actors or models, for example, rely heavily on their appearance to work in their respective fields.
In these situations, even though the injuries may not have led to amputation or other situations where a victim loses their ability to work, these types of workers nonetheless may lose their ability to work permanently in their respective fields due to the scarring and disfigurement.
Such victims, due to the trauma of the accident and the repercussions on their work and years of build-up fame or reputation, will be affected strongly, which can lead to the development of other disorders that may be compensated in the form of pain and suffering or other non-economic damages.
Duration of Recovery
The length of time it takes for a personal injury victim to recover from their injuries will impact their settlement amount. If a recovery period lasts longer and is prolonged due to medical complications or other factors while the case is pending, or if the victim experienced permanent impairment due to the injuries, they will usually receive a higher pain and suffering compensation.
This can also extend to the mental disorder aspects of a victim. Mental health records can also showcase how the emotional suffering of a victim affected their lives and allow them to seek a higher monetary value.
Injuries affect the mind, and even though bodily injuries are easier to prove in a personal injury claim, a dedicated personal injury lawyer can help you prove your mental distress, anguish, and suffering just as easily.
Apart from these aspects, if physical pain is also associated with the recovery period, it can also be used further to pursue a higher compensation amount.
Florida’s modified comparative fault system is another important element that plays a crucial aspect in pain and suffering settlements. Many personal injury claims involve a victim and a negligent party.
However, in some cases, the injured party may also share some fault for the accident or injuries. For example, a car accident victim may not have worn their seatbelt, contributing to the severity of their injuries.
In this instance, the party that caused the accident will use the fact that the victim did not wear a seatbelt against them so that they can diminish some of their liability. If the at-fault party succeeds in proving this, it can affect a victim’s final settlement amount.
In Florida, if an injured party is more than 50% responsible for an accident, they can be barred from receiving compensation. If an injured party is deemed less than 50% responsible for the accident, then their assigned percentage of fault will be used as a deductible percentage to reduce their compensation.
In other words, if you were found to be 20% responsible for an accident, and your settlement amount is $200,000, then you will only receive $160,000 regardless of the severity of your personal injury damages.
Personal Injury Claims & Pain and Suffering Settlements
Pain and suffering damages can be awarded in various personal injury claims, such as car accidents, slips and falls, dog bites, medical malpractice, and more. To make the best out of your personal injury case and pursue pain and suffering damages, you must consider the laws governing personal injury in Florida and adequately prepare your case. Here is how to pursue pain and suffering damages in your personal injury case in Florida:
First Steps into Dealing with a Personal Injury
If you have been harmed in Florida due to someone else’s negligence or willful conduct, or you have lost a loved one, you can pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim against the at-fault party and seek pain and suffering damages.
In your case, the pain and suffering award will be influenced by what you do or don’t do after the accident. Firstly, it’s important to understand that filing a personal injury claim should occur as soon as possible so as to adhere to Florida’s statute of limitations.
Under Florida Law, the statute of limitations for personal injury or wrongful death claims is two years from the date of the accident or death. If you pursue legal action beyond this time limitation, you might be barred from pursuing a claim unless there are exceptional circumstances surrounding your case that can extend the statute of limitations.
A personal injury lawyer can help you determine if you can still do something if your statute of limitations has expired. If the statute of limitations isn’t an issue and the accident occurred recently, seek medical attention immediately.
Seeking medical attention will help you prioritize your health and case while avoiding medical attention will worsen everything, including your claim. When you receive medical attention, you will gain medical reports to establish a causal link between the accident and your injuries.
The medical bills and other medical expenses will also be used later in your claim to recover compensation. Contact authorities to report the accident so that a police investigation, and therefore a report, can be made.
Before leaving the accident scene, take photos of your injuries as they will be useful later to prove pain and suffering, but don’t neglect to take photos of your property damage and road or property conditions. If you suffered a slip and fall accident, showcase the hazardous conditions that led to your accident on the premises.
If there are witnesses, write down their names, contact information, and the at-fault parties. While you receive medical attention, record everything in a diary or journal. Describe your symptoms and the procedures you went through and collect the receipts.
Consulting With a Lawyer
When you suffer a serious injury, your insurance coverage might not be enough to cover the medical expenses. Apart from this, if you consider pursuing a pain and suffering claim, you might need a dedicated Florida personal injury lawyer by your side to help you out.
With a personal injury attorney helping you out, you can more easily establish the economic damages and non-economic damages you can pursue. A skilled lawyer will also help you gather evidence, receive police and medical reports, speak with witnesses, and prepare them to give testimonies to strengthen your case.
A lawyer will also deal with insurance companies and negotiate on your behalf so that you can receive compensation for your emotional pain and physical pain. Although an insurance company might try to offer you a settlement amount, do not accept it without a personal injury lawyer reviewing the documents.
In most instances, an insurance company will want to settle a case faster by offering a swift yet lesser compensation amount to injured victims. However, you do not know the true extent of your injuries and what they mean for your future.
Apart from this, it is more than likely that your pain and suffering claims will not be considered in such a hasty offer. Determining pain and suffering in your case will be even more important for your final settlement amount than your property damage or even medical bills. This is because non-economic damages are usually worth more than economic damages.
A personal injury attorney in Florida will also advocate for your rights if settlement negotiations fail, and you must pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault negligent party.
How is Pain and Suffering Calculated?
Pain and suffering are calculated in various ways. Generally, both insurance companies and courts will use some type of formula to estimate the worth of your pain and suffering. However, to have a solid claim, you will need powerful evidence and, in some cases, expert testimonies.
Medical professionals can provide expert testimonies, for example, and your personal injury attorney can help you connect with such entities and prepare them to give expert testimony. Generally, the multiplier method is a popular formula used in calculating pain and suffering damages.
In this instance, a court or you, with your lawyer’s help, will negotiate with the other party and the insurance company to assign a number between 1.5 and 5. The value of the number will be selected depending on the severity of your injuries. This number will then be used to multiply your economic damages, such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages. The resulting number will be the value of your non-economic damages.
Working With a Dedicated Lawyer
At The Law Offices of Scott J. Senft, we have helped various victims pursue pain and suffering damages in their personal injury claims throughout the decades. We believe that pain and suffering should never go under the radar in a personal injury claim.
Victims will never deal only with financial hardships during their recovery period. The injuries sustained will more than likely often result in other negative consequences that should always be highlighted when pursuing justice.
Do not let the negligence or willful misconduct of others go unnoticed. Pursue a pain and suffering settlement with one of our dedicated and compassionate personal injury attorneys by your side. Let us be your guide in your path to recovery and justice as we highlight and prepare your case. Contact our law firm today for a free legal consultation, and let us explore your legal options and give you a fighting chance at maximizing your compensation.