If you were in a car accident and anticipate bringing a lawsuit against the at-fault party, or you have already brought a lawsuit, you might be wondering about the types and amount of damages you might receive in a settlement or if a court rules in your favor. The amount of damages a car accident victim receives from a successful lawsuit can range from a few thousand dollars to millions.
One of the biggest reasons for this variation lies in the value of damages for pain and suffering an accident victim might receive. Your Orlando car accident lawyer and the insurance companies use several different strategies and tools to place an economic value on your claim, but some types of damages are easier to quantify than others.
It’s not uncommon for lawyers, insurance companies, and courts to struggle to place value on pain and suffering. Victims don’t get a bill for pain like they do for an emergency room visit, and assigning a value to a victim’s pain and suffering is highly subjective, meaning the value may change from person to person.
If you have an experienced attorney representing you, they generally use past cases they have worked on and every tool available to them to place a value on your claim. Yet, you cannot expect a specific amount from a settlement or court-awarded damages, especially not for pain and suffering, if you’re eligible for those types of damages. To understand the of potential compensation look at Michael T. Gibson’s previous case results.
You can ensure you maximize your chances of receiving the largest amount of compensation for pain and suffering by hiring a skilled car accident attorney who will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. This guide provides a deeper look into pain and suffering amounts included in car accident claims in Florida, and the elements of your claim that can impact its value, as well as evidence your attorney, insurance companies, and the court will review to determine if and how much compensation you might receive for pain and suffering.
Understanding Pain and Suffering
If you’ve experienced severe injuries in a Florida car accident, you have certainly experienced pain and suffering. Yet, in a personal injury lawsuit, pain and suffering have specific definitions relevant to the compensation an accident victim might receive. On a rudimentary level, the easiest way to characterize pain and suffering is the physical discomfort and mental anguish an injured person must cope with as a result of another party’s negligence or intentional harm. In car accidents, pain and suffering refers to mental anguish and physical discomfort caused by the accident and associated injuries.
- Specific physical injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, back injuries, spinal cord injuries, or broken bones;
- Ongoing aches and pains;
- Permanent and temporary activity restrictions;
- Reduction in a person’s quality of life;
- Mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder; and
- Embarrassment from burns, scars, loss of limbs, and other visible injuries.
Florida courts award plaintiffs in personal injury cases special damages and general damages. Special damages include costs that are easy to quantify like medical expenses, lost wages, and assistive devices; general damages include pain and suffering and other non-economic damages that are difficult to place a value on. Expect your attorney and the insurance company to have very different estimates of what you should receive for pain and suffering.
Elements of Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident Claim
When your attorney, the insurance companies, and the insurance companies’ legal defense teams examine your car accident claim, they will consider several different elements to determine if and how much compensation you should receive for pain and suffering. Some of the most common questions used to value damages for pain and suffering in a car accident claim include:
How Severe Is Your Injury?
Nothing is guaranteed in a car accident claim, but generally, more severe your injuries are, the more compensation you might receive for pain and suffering. For example, a mild concussion can be painful and you might have a headache for a few weeks, but it isn’t nearly as painful as a severe traumatic brain injury, which can cause you to have difficulties with your memory, cognition, and motor skills for life. You might even experience increased aggression and other personality changes.
Similarly, a broken bone may be painful but heal in a couple of months, while a spinal cord injury can lead to permanent disability, which might result in confinement to a wheelchair. When car accident injuries are severe enough to require a lengthy hospital stay and lead to life-altering changes, the value of pain and suffering in a car accident claim often increases. Under Florida law, car accident victims must sustain a “permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement,” to receive compensation for their injury.
What Is the Nature of Your Injury?
Some injuries can cause humiliation, anger, and frustration that lead to emotional pain beyond the simple trauma of suffering a severe injury. For example, those who suffer an amputation can be humiliated by having to learn how to use an artificial limb. The nature of an injury also includes its location. Scars from burns or cuts after a car accident might be permanent, and their location might increase your compensation for pain and suffering. For example, a scar on someone’s face or the loss of a leg will likely justify more compensation than a scar on someone’s back or the loss of a finger or toe.
How Likely Are You to Make a Full Recovery?
Your long-term prognosis also factors into the amount of compensation you might receive for pain and suffering. This is strongly related to severity because more severe injuries typically have a poor prognosis, or at the very least, don’t allow for a full recovery. Severe car accident injuries also make it difficult for doctors to offer an accurate prognosis. Sometimes doctors just don’t know if or how much a victim will recover. Brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and back injuries are examples of injuries from which accident victims have a high likelihood of not making a full recovery. If your long-term prognosis is less than full recovery, you have a higher chance of receiving more compensation for your injuries.
How Much Economic Loss Have You Incurred?
When you have a large amount of special damages, or economic losses, this can increase the amount you receive for pain and suffering. If you have suffered severe injuries, you likely cannot work even as medical bills pile up. You might have bills for an ambulance ride, an emergency room visit, a hospital stay, one or more surgeries, medication, and doctor’s visits. Other costs you might incur as a result of your injury include expenses for visiting physical therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, and other specialists. You might also have spent money to modify your home to make it more accessible and hired domestic replacement services to help with cleaning, lawn care, home repairs, laundry, childcare, and any other services you need to help maintain your home in the same way you did before your accident. All of these costs place extra financial stress on victims and their families, which might justify additional compensation for pain and suffering.
What Are the Liable Party’s Insurance Policy Limits?
Those who register a motor vehicle in Florida must carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to comply with the state’s no-fault insurance laws. If you have been in a car accident, your first course of action will be to file a claim under your own PIP policy, even if you didn’t cause the accident.
Once your medical expenses and lost wages have met or exceeded your PIP limits, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company. Florida PIP insurance does not pay out compensation for pain and suffering, ensuring that only those who have severe and catastrophic injuries receive general damages in a settlement or verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
If you sue the driver who caused you harm, the amount of compensation you receive for pain and suffering will likely be limited to the other driver’s bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance coverage limits. Even if the value of your claim is in the millions, you can only sue up to the other party’s policy limit.
The amount of compensation for pain and suffering hinges on how much money is left to pay out after special damages for medical expenses and lost wages have been calculated. In some cases, you might even choose to directly sue the at-fault driver, especially if they were uninsured and you do not carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
Evidence for Your Pain and Suffering Claim
You can increase your chances of getting the maximum payout for pain and suffering by providing as much evidence to the insurance company and court as possible. Some examples of evidence your attorney and the insurance carrier will review to determine your eligibility and a value for pain and suffering include:
- Medical records. Documentation of your medical and your current medical records provides information about past injuries, treatment, and recovery. The other party’s legal defense teams and insurance companies will look for preexisting injuries to devalue your pain and suffering by arguing that the car accident was not the cause of your injury. Any prescriptions, especially for things such as pain medication or antidepressants can help support claims of ongoing pain and discomfort as well as any emotional stress you might be dealing with as a result of the trauma of being involved in a car accident.
- Medical bills. A total of all of your medical expenses can provide evidence of the financial burden you must shoulder as a result of your car accident injuries. This includes previously mentioned items such as ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, surgery, and radiology.
- Photographs of injuries. Descriptions of your injuries by you and your doctor are helpful, but as the saying goes, “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” When insurance companies and legal defense teams have photos of your injuries, it makes it much harder for them to deny a claim or devalue your claim based on causation.
- Official police report. A copy of the final police report will also help solidify liability and offer evidence about how the accident occurred. This can provide evidence that the injuries you sustained are consistent with the way law enforcement described the accident and help increase the amount you receive for pain and suffering.
- Victim impact statements. The insurance company, your attorney, and the defense might interview people who knew you before the accident and also know you now, after your car accident. They will generally avoid close friends and family members and typically speak to more unbiased people such as colleagues. These statements can provide evidence about how the injuries from the car accident affect your life, potentially increasing your compensation for pain and suffering.
- Opinions from various experts. Attorneys often consult with medical experts to review your case and provide an opinion about your injuries and prognosis, which sometimes support your doctor’s opinion, and other times refute it. For example, attorneys on both sides might consult with a neurosurgeon and/or an orthopedic surgeon if you have suffered a spinal injury, or they might consult with a behavioral specialist if you have been showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after the accident. Depending on the situation and the opinion, expert statements and testimony might increase the amount you receive for pain and suffering.
Determining how much you get for pain and suffering after a car accident is a highly subjective process that often serves as one of the main points of disagreement during settlement negotiations. It’s in your best interest to hire a skilled car accident attorney to give you the highest chances of receiving the maximum payout for your pain and suffering.
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