Pain and suffering describes a type of damages that courts can award to automobile accident victims following their accidents. While many may already understand what the term represents, it can prove difficult to grasp the concept of compensation for damages such as pain and suffering, which victims often have a hard time identifying and/or measuring.
About Pain and Suffering in Car Accidents
When you sustain injuries in a preventable accident that another party caused, your injuries may impact your way of life and your overall well-being. Physical injuries can affect your physical state as well as your emotional and mental health. The aftermath of an injury can last from several weeks to months to years, or in some cases, a lifetime.
After a car accident, you will likely initiate a personal injury claim to recover for the losses you have sustained and will continue to accrue because of the accident. As part of a claim with an insurer, one of the damages you could qualify to pursue includes compensation for your pain and suffering. Unlike other damages that can have a clear indication of the losses sustained by you through bills, records, and receipts; pain and suffering damage can vary greatly between injured individuals depending on their specific circumstances.
Pain and suffering most often refer to the effects of an accident on your mental and emotional well-being, as well as the aftermath of the accident. The events leading up to and including the accident itself can cause an individual pain and suffering in addition to the injuries you sustain, and the time it takes for the recovery and rehabilitation of those injuries will vary among injured individuals. For many people, their pain and suffering continue until they have fully healed from their injuries, but for some, the pain and suffering can last for a lifetime and may never fully resolve.
Examples of Pain and Suffering That Stem From an Auto Accident
Each person experiences pain and suffering differently. For some injuries, you may only deal with minor discomfort and inconveniences to your daily life and routine. However, for more serious injuries, victims may lose the ability to engage in the activities they loved before the accident. Victims may lose their independence and must adjust their expectations and abilities to the limitations created by the injuries they have sustained. If the damage to their health proves permanent, they can face consequences that will continue in their future as they move forward from the accident.
Pain and suffering can include:
- Physical pain related to an accident and injuries, such as brain injuries, internal injuries, broken bones, burns, or other physical ailments.
- Physical pain related to medical procedures or rehabilitation that may prove necessary for your recovery.
- Emotional trauma or psychological impacts that stem from the accident.
- Loss of enjoyment of life due to limitations from injuries.
- Impact of the accident on your personal relationships.
Who Qualifies To Pursue Compensation for Pain and Suffering After a Motor Vehicle Collision?
Florida car accidents follow the doctrine of no-fault insurance. Under Florida law, every driver must carry minimum insurance coverage in the event of an accident that results in injuries. No-fault insurance laws allow for victims of an accident to file a claim with their own insurer if necessary to cover the costs of economic damages related to the accident.
One caveat to the no-fault insurance system is that an individual cannot file a claim for losses related to pain and suffering against his or her own insurer in Florida. For victims to seek compensation for their losses related to pain and suffering in Florida, they must file a claim against the insurer of the at-fault party or a lawsuit against the at-fault party personally.
This in turn limits the parties that can file for pain and suffering damage in an accident. In most instances, a party that bears liability for an accident will not qualify to seek these types of losses in a claim. Furthermore, the laws of Florida indicate that an individual that seeks compensation for pain and suffering must have sustained some type of verifiable injury. The injuries and the claim for pain and suffering must provide support through the evidence for the claims made and the damages sought in the case.
If an individual cannot prove that an actual injury occurred as a result of the accident, he or she may not proceed with a claim for damages that pertain to pain or suffering.
Different Types of Damages
A personal injury claim against an insurer or a lawsuit in court against an insurer or at-fault party will reference the damages that an individual has incurred due to an accident. Accident-related damages can potentially include both economic and non-economic losses.
Economic losses include damages that have monetary value and that you can easily verify based on records, receipts, or other proof of expenses and bills that have accumulated. These types of losses typically include medical costs, property damage, and lost wages. Most car accident cases will include economic damage to some extent.
Non-economic losses often prove more difficult to calculate because they can vary greatly from one person to another and depend on several factors after an accident. Not all car accident cases will include recovery for non-economic losses, as these damages often depend on the severity of injuries suffered and are not usually available to a party found at fault for an accident.
Not every accident victim will qualify to pursue all types of damages. The damages available in your case will depend on the facts of your case as well as the extent of injuries and losses you have sustained. Most often, pain and suffering compensation results more frequently in cases that involve serious injuries that have long-term consequences and effects on a victim’s life.
Who Will Calculate My Pain and Suffering Damages
After an accident, you may wonder how a party will determine the monetary amount that represents your pain and suffering. Contrary to what some accident victims may believe, pain and suffering damages depend on the facts of an accident claim. The parties will use different methods to calculate how much compensation should result in a particular case.
If you suffer injuries in an auto accident due to the negligence of another driver, you will first file a claim with the at-fault party’s automobile insurer. The insurer will use its own method to calculate the amount of damage related to pain and suffering in your case in combination with your other losses. Each insurer has a different internal system and methodology in which the insurer pinpoints a number, but it often occurs that the first offer of settlement in a car accident claim will fall well below the potential overall value of your case. Pain and suffering damages can amount to a considerable amount of money in comparison to your other losses, especially when you have an injury that will cause you lifelong impacts or a permanent disability.
Your Auto Accident Attorney
When you hire an attorney to represent you in an auto accident, he or she will take the time to sit with you and determine your overall losses in each category of available legal damages. If you have injuries, this will likely include a calculation for pain and suffering. While the calculation by your attorney does not necessarily represent the amount you will ultimately receive from an insurer or at-fault party, it does give you an insight into the maximum compensation available in your case. This number can help you negotiate a settlement that benefits you and will help guide you to make decisions on whether you should settle or move forward in court if necessary.
A Civil Court
If a case does not reach a settlement agreement at the stage of the personal injury claim, it may prove necessary to file a lawsuit in court against an insurer or the at-fault party. If this should occur, a court will consider the evidence of the injuries and impacts on a victim in a car accident and will make its own calculation of damages, which may include pain and suffering. If a court finds that a negligent party bears liability for your injuries, then the court will proceed to calculate the amount of compensation that it should award you to make you whole again.
Factors That Can Affect Pain and Suffering Compensation Related to a Car Accident
Several different circumstances will influence the amount of monetary compensation that you may qualify to pursue as a victim of pain and suffering. Cases that involve serious to catastrophic injuries often result in higher pain and suffering damages. Certain factors may indicate that a victim qualifies for significant damages for pain and suffering after a car accident.
Some factors that can indicate potential pain and suffering compensation include:
- Severe physical injuries;
- Injuries that result in prolonged pain, permanent disability, or deformities;
- Injuries that require extensive surgery and rehabilitation;
- Signs or symptoms that indicate psychological or emotional trauma; and
- Significant loss of function, independence, or abilities as a result of an injury.
How Do You Determine the Reasonableness of Pain and Suffering Settlement Offer?
It can prove difficult for a victim of a car accident to know what action to take when they receive an offer of settlement from an insurer. When accident victims don’t have legal representation, they face a high risk that an early settlement offer will fall well below what the case and evidence support. When an insurer makes an offer quickly after an accident, this usually indicates that the insurer thinks the case may have significant damage and losses and wants to attempt to resolve the case as soon as possible for the least amount of money possible.
If you have serious injuries that impact your life, from your ability to work, fulfill day-to-day responsibilities, maintain your relationships, participate in your hobbies, and take care of your basic needs, you likely qualify for compensation for pain and suffering. If you cannot enjoy your life as before or otherwise experience pain, discomfort, or limitations that affect your body and mind, you likely qualify for significant compensation.
You should consult an experienced car accident attorney to determine whether to accept a settlement offer. A lawyer understands how damages work and the value of your case in terms of your losses, including pain and suffering.
How Can an Attorney Help You With Your Claim?
When a case involves losses that include pain and suffering, an attorney will serve as a vital resource. An attorney at your side will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome in your case. Car accident injury cases often involve complexities, and a victim will need someone to serve as an advocate throughout the process against insurers, at-fault drivers, and other parties to the case.
Your attorney will not only help you with the calculation of the losses related to an accident and your injuries, but can also assist you in gathering the evidence to support your claim and demands for compensation. In addition, once you have an attorney to represent your legal rights, that individual will serve as the middleman between you and all other interested parties in your case.
Your attorney will protect your rights and seek the best possible outcome for your case. Your attorney will help negotiate a settlement on your behalf that proves fair and will try to avoid the need for a lawsuit in court if possible to do so. You will receive notification of all settlement offers and advice on the best course of action for you.
If you face pain and suffering related to an automobile accident due to the fault of another, you may qualify to pursue compensation. Contact an automobile accident attorney for a free consultation, during which you can discuss the details of your accident, ask questions about your legal options, and determine your eligibility to pursue maximum compensation under the law. Don’t hesitate to get legal help; reach out to an experienced attorney today to begin your fight for justice.