The scene was grizzly after a recent accident involving a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle. The semi-truck was traveling down I-75 when it crossed the median and hit the smaller vehicle head-on. The crash trapped two passengers in the car while firefighters fought to pull back the mangled front end. Once firefighters got into the vehicle, emergency responders took the two passengers to the local hospital as trauma alerts.
While most people realize the physical injuries that may potentially result from a semi-truck crash, this accident is one that these passengers will likely never forget. They will likely live with the emotional scars every day for the rest of their lives.
After an accident, the law allows victims to file a truck accident lawsuit to recover damages. This includes pain and suffering. If you or a loved one has been in a semi-truck accident, you may qualify for financial compensation. Contact an experienced Orland truck accident attorney from Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney to learn more.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
The two main damages components to a truck accident case include (1) economic and (2) non-economic damages.
Economic damages cover an injured individual’s actual financial losses after an accident. This includes medical bills, lost wages, and residential modifications. In other words, economic damages cover anything you have to pay for out-of-pocket as the result of your accident.
Non-economic damages are injuries that do not have a specific cost—ones that are hard to put a price on. Many times, you’ll hear these costs referred to as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering covers the emotional and psychological side of an injury. This may include:
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles department reported 403,626 motor vehicle accidents in a recent year. Of these, nearly 40 percent involved some degree of injury. If you suffer a serious injury, you may experience pain for weeks or even months after the original injury.
Common complaints include:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Joint pain
- Limb pain
If you experience any pain after an accident, don’t attempt to hide it or push through it. Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. Tell your doctor about any new pain or pain that won’t go away. This includes any previous injuries that have flared up after an accident.
Diminished Cognitive Function
The brain is your body’s central communication hub. It sends and receives messages throughout the rest of the body. After a serious accident, the brain may suffer damage that causes difficulty relaying these messages. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, approximately 1.7 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury every year. Of these, between 50 to 70 percent are the result of a motor vehicle accident.
Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries may leave long-lasting effects, such as:
- Difficulty processing
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
- Trouble sleeping
- Speech issues
- Loss of fine motor control
If you have never been in an accident, it’s difficult to understand the level of trauma involved. A collision with a semi-truck is one of the scariest things that you can experience. After an accident, it’s not uncommon for victims to have difficulty processing what happened and moving on from the accident. For some victims, they will deal with this pain for the rest of their lives.
Mental health injuries are just as serious as physical injuries. They can affect every part of your day-to-day life. Common injuries include:
Depression: An accident may change your life as you know it, which can prove difficult to accept. When your injuries affect your ability to live the life you had before, it’s easy to feel upset. Psychologists categorize depression as a persistent feeling of sadness. People who suffer from depression often struggle with a loss of interest, difficulty sleeping, anger, and feelings of worthlessness. If you experience these symptoms after an accident, tell your doctor. Medication or counseling may help reduce these symptoms.
Anxiety: Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that nearly half of all people diagnosed with depression also suffer from anxiety. Anxiety often presents as a constant feeling of dread. Anxiety may come on unexpectedly or may result because of a certain trigger, such as the thought of getting in the car.
PTSD: A semi-truck accident is a traumatic experience. It is not something from which you can easily move on. After an accident, the brain may have difficulty processing what happened. As a result, you may experience PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). A study found that up to one-third of motor vehicle accident victims suffer from PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD may include nightmares, reliving the event, anxiety, anger, and negative thoughts.
Loss of Companionship
As humans, we rely on connections and relationships with others. It is part of what makes us human. Sadly, a serious accident can negatively affect relationships. Beyond dealing with the events of the accident, a traumatic brain injury may cause mood changes, communication problems, coma, or death.
Loss of Enjoyment
It’s difficult to understand how much certain activities mean to you until you can no longer engage in them. Injuries can render activities like running, team sports, and even reading difficult or impossible. When an injury or pain limits your activities, you deserve fair and just compensation for the loss.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines disfigurement as: “to impair (as in beauty) by deep and persistent injuries.” This may involve scarring, loss of limb, or a substantial change in appearance. These injuries can occur as a result of severe burns, amputation, or crush injuries.
As humans, we place a high value on physical appearance. From a personal standpoint, it can be hard to accept the changes in appearance that result from a serious accident. This may result in anxiety, depression, embarrassment, or withdrawal. Unfortunately, disfigurement can extend to personal and professional relationships, as well. Severe disfigurement may affect relationships and even career standing.
Diminished Quality of Life
It’s hard to quantify just how much an accident can affect your day-to-day life. However, pain and suffering compensation isn’t just for substantial, life-altering changes. If an injury changes the way you live, it matters. Remember, a truck accident suit will consider your future losses. Once you settle a claim, you may not reopen it. This is why you need to understand the true effect that your injuries will have on your life.
Who Pays for Pain and Suffering?
In a no-fault state, like Florida, after an accident, the at-fault party’s insurance should pay for any medical bills, costs, and pain and suffering that your PIP coverage doesn’t cover.
Truck accidents are a little different from other types of accidents, however, as they often involve multiple parties. In this case, you may have access to more than one insurance policy, which can help cover extraordinary costs.
Parties who may hold financial liability include:
- The driver: State and federal laws require all truck drivers to hold active liability insurance at all times. This coverage is much higher than passenger vehicle requirements. The driver’s insurance will be the primary method of recovery after an accident.
- The trucking company: In most cases, your attorney will include the trucking company as a defendant in your truck accident case. If your damages exceed the primary insurance policy, or the trucking company holds the majority of responsibility for the accident, the law allows you to seek damages against the company or its insurance policy.
- A vehicle or parts manufacturer: The law requires all truck drivers to complete daily inspections on their trucks. However, in the case of a defective or faulty part, even an inspection may not detect an issue. If the accident is the result of a defective product, both you and the other driver can pursue damages against the parts manufacturer.
How Do I Prove Pain and Suffering?
Unlike economic damages, you can’t just hand over a receipt for pain and suffering. Because of this, pain and suffering is likely the area in which the insurance company will put up the most fight. The good news is, there are many ways to establish pain and suffering damages. Once you provide sufficient evidence, the insurance company has to take you seriously. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you collect evidence and present a solid case.
You can establish pain and suffering through:
- Personal statements: No one knows your life more than you and your family. Your family members can attest to any changes that they have seen in your personality, mood, or quality of life. Your own statement carries tremendous importance. Remember, speak completely honestly about how the accident has affected your life. Don’t ignore things that you don’t think are a big deal. At the same time, don’t try to make up problems to increase your settlement. Your credibility is one of the most important components of your truck accident case. It’s a good idea to keep a journal to track your feelings and any difficult or traumatic events following an accident. Your co-workers or supervisors may also attest to any changes. Have you missed work? Are you missing deadlines? These things matter.
- Your medical records: Your medical records don’t just show broken bones or brain injuries, they can also provide a comprehensive look at your overall well-being. Has your pain improved with treatment? How is your mood? Your doctor will note these issues in your after-visit summary. In addition to your general health care provider’s report, your mental health records will also provide important evidence.
- Expert witnesses: In some cases, your attorney may decide to bring in an expert witness, such as a doctor, a vocational therapist, or an accident reconstruction expert. While most cases can’t depend on expert witnesses alone, they can help support your case.
- Physical evidence: If you have ever driven by a serious accident, you know it’s something that can stick with you throughout the rest of the day. Now imagine being involved in that accident. During negotiations and at trial, your attorney may show videos or photos of the scene to show the severity of the accident. Expert or witness testimony can help support the images.
How does an insurance company calculate pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering is one of the most variable pieces of a truck accident case.
The insurance company will look at many factors to determine an appropriate pain and suffering amount, which may include:
- The degree of your injuries: When it comes to a truck accident case, not all pain is equal. The insurance company will look at the severity of your pain and for how long it persists.
- Your life before the accident: Were you an active runner before the accident? Did your career rely on your physical appearance? Look at your injuries and how they have a direct impact on specific aspects of your life.
- Events following the accident: Did you lose a job? Did you end a relationship? Have you suffered ongoing anxiety or embarrassment? Demonstrable effects after the accident are one of the best ways to prove pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering awards are subject to policy limits. In other words, your economic damages and non-economic damages generally cannot exceed the at-fault party’s bodily injury limits.
Your Pain Matters
Sadly, pain and suffering claims often get a reputation as frivolous or unnecessary pursuits. There is nothing frivolous about your pain. A serious injury can greatly affect your quality of life. Don’t hesitate to get the help you deserve. If you have questions or need help, contact an experienced truck accident attorney.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814