Getting injured inflicts a lot of costs. Not all of those costs, however, come with a bill or a price tag that you can show when seeking compensation for your injuries. The toll that an injury takes on your quality of life—including your ability to continue your career, live independently, and take part in enjoyable activities—often prove more challenging than managing the financial impact of an injury.
The law recognizes that reality and gives you the right to seek pain and suffering damages as compensation for the life difficulties you endure after getting hurt because of someone else’s wrongdoing. The best way to prove pain and suffering is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer. Here’s an overview of how lawyers prove pain and suffering in personal injury cases.
What is pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering is legal shorthand for the wide range of non-financial (also called non-monetary or non-economic) difficulties that people suffer because of a personal injury. It includes challenges like physical discomfort, emotional anguish, inconvenience, frustration, and lingering psychological trauma. It also includes social and interpersonal impacts of a personal injury, like interference with a spousal or parent-child relationship, or embarrassment and anxiety about a disability or disfiguring injury. In short, any negative impact on your quality or enjoyment of life can constitute pain and suffering deserving of compensation.
How does the law put a value on pain and suffering?
Financial/monetary/economic damages are relatively easy to prove. Most of the time, personal injury victims have ready access to documentation of them in the form of bills, invoices, receipts, pay stubs, and other evidence showing how much money, down to the penny, a personal injury costs them.
Pain and suffering, however, is different. It rarely comes with a price tag attached. Instead, lawyers evaluate pain and suffering by drawing reasonable inferences from evidence reflecting the severity and life impacts of an injury.
- How painful the medical treatments were that you received for your injury. Some injuries, such as burns, bone fractures in the legs and hips, injuries to the spinal vertebrae or discs, dislocated jaws, shoulders, or elbows, and injuries to the cornea, require extraordinarily painful treatments. You can grow to additional treatments or feel depressed about the pain they involve.
- The emotional or mental trauma reasonably associated with the injury. Injuries that result in a dramatic change in how the individual moves and functions, a dramatic change in the injured person’s appearance, and/or his or her ability to attend to personal care tasks independently will typically result in higher non-economic damage claims.
- Whether the injury caused you to incur chronic pain. Being in pain frequently or constantly has a tremendous impact on the quality of life of a personal injury claimant.
- Whether the injury prevented you from participating in hobbies and activities that you previously enjoyed. This is a loss of the enjoyment of life, and it commonly appears on accident injury claims.
- Whether the injury resulted in physical changes that cause you to feel uncomfortable or ashamed in social settings. This is also a negative impact on your quality of life and you can seek compensation.
In Texas, to claim non-economic damages, a lawyer must also show an accompanying physical injury. In most cases, you cannot seek damages for emotional distress alone.
For the most part, Texas does not limit the non-economic damages that a claimant can recover in a personal injury lawsuit. The most notable exception to that rule is in medical malpractice cases. Texas law caps medical malpractice pain and suffering damages at $250,000.
How Lawyers Prove Pain and Suffering
Recovering non-economic damages requires placing a dollar amount on feelings of discomfort and emotional trauma. It stands to reason that the more severe your injuries, and the greater their impacts on your life, the more money you should receive.
But, how, exactly, does your lawyer prove that you endured pain and suffering? In a word: evidence.
In the legal world, evidence is any item of information that a lawyer can use in court to prove a fact. Experienced personal injury lawyers understand that unlike evidence of economic damages (bills, invoices, etc.), evidence of pain and suffering can take many forms.
They might include, for example:
- Testimony from you about the pain and emotional anguish you have suffered because of your injuries.
- Testimony from friends, family members, and coworkers observing how your injury has affected your life, activities, and relationships. This can help the court or the at-fault party’s insurance provider understand the changes in personality and demeanor that people who knew you well both before and after your injury observed.
- Records of your medical appointments and physical therapy visits. Most of these records will have a section that features a narrative on how the patient felt at the appointment on a pain rating scale. These documents provide additional proof of the pain the patient experienced, and its severity and duration.
- Prescription records revealing prescriptions for pain medications that you were given and filled.
- Testimony from your treating physicians or expert physicians about the pain that people with similar injuries generally experience.
- Evaluations by mental health providers, such as psychiatrists or psychologists.
- Photographs or videos of the injuries you received or from your physical therapy sessions, as these can paint a clearer picture of your injury severity and the pain involved in your recovery.
- Before-and-after evidence illustrating the difference in your life pre- and post-injury.
Experienced personal injury lawyers work closely with their clients to develop a convincing and comprehensive body of evidence to prove pain and suffering. To learn more about the compensation you may deserve to receive for pain and suffering after an injury, contact a skilled personal injury lawyer today for a free consultation.