After an accident, whether a slip and fall, motor vehicle crash, or another injury-causing incident, you may wonder what damages you are eligible for through an insurance claim. You may expect some damages, such as medical expenses and property damage, once an insurance company accepts liability for your losses. Damages for pain and suffering are not as straightforward, and an insurer may not always willingly pay them in a settlement. Having a personal injury lawyer at your side could help with negotiations wit your insurer.
Most insurance company adjusters will only pay you the least amount of money they can to settle your claim. After all, insurance companies only make money when they keep the premium payments they accept from their insureds. They lose money when they have to pay out large pain and suffering settlements and lawsuits.
When you consider your losses after a personal injury, you may not think about the significance of pain and suffering or the compensation you may seek in your case. Often, pain and suffering damages are afterthoughts in negotiations of settlement offers with an insurer.
The reality is that pain and suffering losses are significant to your life and can considerably increase the compensation you recover. Insurance companies want to avoid making payments for pain and suffering, but you may seek additional compensation for these damages. Not only can you pursue monetary compensation for your past pain and suffering that started on the accident date, but you may also be eligible to recover damages for your anticipated future pain and suffering.
How Do Pain and Suffering Differ from Other Damages in a Personal Injury Case?
As non-economic damages, the evaluation of pain and suffering damages are subjective. The fact is that no price tag or monetary value can truly represent the extent of personal loss that you suffer after a life-altering accident. This is especially true when it comes to permanent injuries, including paralysis and loss of use of a body part(s). Economic damages such as medical and repair bills are easy to calculate using comparisons and standard costs. Still, pain and suffering are too personal to know how much damage a victim has or will endure.
When Will an Insurer Pay for Pain and Suffering Damages?
Insurance companies will pay for pain and suffering damages in some circumstances, but the companies do not easily pay these damages. When pursuing these damages, accident victims are constantly fighting an uphill battle. Insurers do everything they can to either prevent a victim from collecting pain and suffering damages as part of their claim or reduce the amount of compensation for this damage.
Insurers are more likely to pay pain and suffering damages in cases where the injuries to a victim are severe and affect their life in multiple areas. Insurers are also more likely to pay pain and suffering damages when the accident victim’s medical treatment records and imaging studies, including MRIs and X-rays, reveal objective signs of injury.
All insurance companies follow different rules or guidelines for calculating pain and suffering damages. The calculations of this category of personal injury loss can vary widely from one insurer to another. Each insurance company and adjuster calculates these damages differently.
Each state sets different laws on when a car accident victim can seek compensation for pain and suffering losses through a lawsuit. These laws influence how insurers will approach claims that give rise to these damages and when the company will pay out to prevent a potential lawsuit with a higher award by a court.
In Florida, an individual filing a lawsuit for pain and suffering in most circumstances must show the accident caused a physical injury in addition to pain and suffering. Filing a claim for damages solely for pain and suffering, such as emotional distress, without evidence of a physical injury probably won’t result in compensation for the victim.
When recovering future pain and suffering damages, the accident victim must have ordinarily sustained a permanent injury in the accident. To establish permanency, a medical provider must be willing to state in writing, and to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that the injury or injuries are unlikely to get better over time. When accident victims establish that they suffered a permanent injury, they may also recover monetary damages for their anticipated pain, suffering, and inconvenience.
How Does an Insurance Company Determine the Amount of Pain and Suffering a Victim It Will pay?
Insurance companies use different methods to calculate the amount of pain and suffering compensation a victim can receive. First and foremost, the insurer will decide whether or not the individual will qualify for this damage under their policy. Secondly, the insurer will calculate the compensation it will offer the victim for this loss. Insurance companies often develop formulas or computer programs to calculate pain and suffering. When the computer spits out a number, the insurance company settlement adjuster typically makes that number the initial settlement offer in the case.
Personal injury lawyers have a different, personalized approach to calculating the damages for the pain and suffering of a victim. A lawyer’s calculations for these damages are unlikely to match those of an insurance company. However, you may agree on monetary compensation by negotiating and providing evidence to support the pain and suffering claim.
In general, the more severe the injuries are in an accident, the higher the amount of pain and suffering damages available to the victim. Also, extensive medical treatment may translate into a high pain and suffering damage award. Surviving severe or catastrophic injuries will forever change the life and outlook of a victim. Insurance companies are more likely to pay out these damages when a victim suffers an injury resulting in a severe injury, permanent disability, or condition.
Will an Insurance Company Pay Pain and Suffering in Every Accident?
It is unlikely an insurer will pay for pain and suffering damages in accidents that do not cause injuries. However, if you are in an accident that results in physical injury, you can receive compensation for pain and suffering. Even in minor to moderate injury cases, a victim such as yourself must deal with the pain of an injury, the inconvenience of recovering from those injuries, and the pain and suffering that can occur during medical treatment and the healing process.
The pain and suffering can be overwhelming for victims that survive severe injuries. While those with less severe injuries can look forward to the days they will heal, victims of severe injuries often have little to no hope of a full recovery. They will face lingering effects in many instances throughout their lifetime.
Unfortunately, many injury accidents give rise to a victim’s right to seek compensation for pain and suffering damages. However, insurance companies will not voluntarily payout these damages in many cases. Many victims each year do not collect the compensation they are eligible for under the law for these damages. This commonly occurs with personal injury accident victims who do not hire an attorney for their cases.
Insurance companies often try to settle cases with unrepresented victims for as low a settlement as possible. This is because insurance companies and their adjusters typically assume that self-represented accident victims do not have the necessary legal knowledge and skills to advocate for themselves and negotiate a favorable settlement offer.
Adjusters also frequently assume that unrepresented accident victims lack the legal experience to file a lawsuit or represent themselves in court if their case goes to trial. Consequently, they will offer self-represented individuals as little money as possible to resolve their injury claims.
What Can Limit Your Damages?
One of the biggest limitations to seeking pain and suffering damages from an insurer is the policy limitations that apply in your case. In cases where a severe injury or permanent disability happens after an accident, the damages can far surpass an insurance policy’s limits. In these cases, the maximum amount of damages an insurer will pay is the maximum coverage under a policy. They are under no other obligation to pay anything beyond that.
While you cannot seek damages beyond the policy limits against an insurer, there are other options to seek compensation for these losses. With the help of a personal injury lawyer, you can evaluate if it is possible to file suit against the party at fault for your accident directly for the compensation of these losses and the likelihood of recovery.
What if an Insurance Company Does Not Include Pain and Suffering Damages in an Offer?
After an accident, especially when an insurer accepts liability quickly, the company will likely move fast to settle a claim. When you receive an offer of settlement from an insurer too soon after an accident, you should be cautious and consider consulting with an attorney before accepting any offers.
If an insurer believes they may be on the hook for significant damages or are at risk of reaching the maximum benefits on a policy, it will try to negotiate a quick settlement with a victim to save money. When this occurs, it is common for the insurer to not include damages for pain and suffering or only a nominal amount compared to the injuries and losses you sustain from the accident.
You may be eligible for pain and suffering damages if you suffer significant injuries that lead you to miss work, seek medical treatment, and/or a lengthy recovery. A personal injury attorney can help you negotiate with an insurer to include these damages in your injury claim settlement offer. If the insurer does not include these damages or refuses to reach an agreement, you can file suit against the insurer in court or the party at fault.
Filing a Claim or Lawsuit for Pain and Suffering Damages
The first step to recovering monetary compensation for pain and suffering is to have your lawyer file a personal injury claim with the appropriate insurance company. In Florida motor vehicle accident cases, accident victims must first turn to their own PIP insurance for compensation. However, if they suffer a serious injury in their car accident, or their PIP insurance is insufficient to compensate them, they can turn to the at-fault driver’s insurer for the pain and suffering compensation they need.
In either instance, a personal injury insurance claim proceeds in essentially the same way. Your lawyer will first gather up all of your medical treatment records, lost wage documents, victim impact statement, photographs of your injuries, photographs of property damage, police report, and eyewitness statements and assemble them into a complete demand package to forward to the insurance company adjuster. In addition, your lawyer will include a settlement demand letter. This letter makes a monetary demand for settlement within the available insurance policy limits.
Obtaining a favorable damage award for past/future pain and suffering is often an uphill battle when dealing with the insurance company. It will typically take several rounds of negotiations between the accident victim’s lawyer and the insurance company adjuster before reaching a satisfactory settlement agreement.
Settlement negotiations typically proceed when the accident victim’s lawyer gradually reduces their initial settlement demand, while the at-fault party’s insurer gradually increases their settlement offer. The parties will eventually settle their case—or they will reach an impasse.
If the insurance company refuses to offer you the full amount of pain and suffering damages you deserve, your lawyer can file a lawsuit and start the litigation process on your behalf. Filing a lawsuit does not end the ability to settle your personal injury claim. The majority of cases in litigation settle long before the scheduled jury trial. However, during litigation, the court will establish various deadlines for the case and keep a watchful eye on the case’s progress.
During litigation, the parties will engage in written and oral discovery. During written discovery, they will answer various questions, called interrogatories, to give the other side more information about their version of the case. Also, during discovery, the parties can take one another’s depositions.
The purpose of a deposition from the defense perspective is to ask the accident victim questions about how their accident occurred, the injuries they suffered, their medical treatment, their symptoms, and the overall impact that the accident had on their life and well-being.
After a deposition, the insurance company adjuster may increase their settlement offer and include additional compensation for past and anticipated pain and suffering. However, if that does not happen, the parties may continue litigation.
A personal injury claim involving pain and suffering ends when the parties take their case to a jury trial or alternative dispute resolution. At a jury trial, the jury determines what damages to award the accident victim for their past, present, and future pain and suffering. If the parties pursue alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, a neutral mediator will meet with the parties confidentially and work to facilitate meaningful settlement discussions. Some cases settle at mediation while others continue moving forward.
At a binding arbitration hearing, a neutral, third-party arbitrator will listen to the evidence and decide what amount of damages to award the accident victim for their pain, suffering, and inconvenience.
An experienced legal team can help you decide whether to consider a pending settlement offer from the insurance company or file a lawsuit and litigate your case in Florida courts.
How Can a Lawyer Help You Fight for Pain and Suffering Damages?
The likelihood that you will successfully receive damages for the pain and suffering you sustained can increase significantly when you hire a lawyer. A personal injury lawyer understands the mindset of the insurance company and how to prove pain and suffering after an injury accident due to negligence.
A personal injury lawyer will also be aware of certain tricks and tactics that insurance companies and their adjusters often use to devalue a pain and suffering claim. Your lawyer will calculate damages, including pain and suffering, that account for the impact the injuries have had and will have on your life.
Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurers to reach a settlement compensating you for the inconvenience, pain, and suffering you endured.
By collecting evidence such as medical records, employment records, and statements by family, friends, and professionals, a lawyer can build your case to show the appropriateness of these damages in your situation. Insurance companies do not want to pay for pain and suffering damages, and they will often dispute the applicability of these damages to a victim or the damages in a case.
Pain and suffering damages can significantly increase your compensation in an insurance claim settlement. For victims that suffer injuries that leave them facing emotional and physical challenges for the remainder of their life, the amount of pain and suffering damages can be quite high in a claim.
In these cases, your lawyer can introduce a mortality or life table into evidence at your jury trial. A life table estimates the number of years an accident victim will live based on their age, sex, and other factors. Your lawyer can then create a per-day argument to arrive at a final damage number for your future pain and suffering.
A lawyer will help you maximize the compensation you can claim with the insurance company and will guide you to fight for the remainder of the compensation you deserve through a personal injury lawsuit if necessary. If you suffer a personal injury, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss whether you may qualify for pain and suffering damages in your case.