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Pain and suffering damages in a car accident case

Almost every injury comes with a severe amount of pain. Let's say you were hit by a negligent motorist while riding your bicycle home from work on a Wednesday afternoon. You broke your neck and several ribs, but you were fortunate to survive. It goes without saying that you will also be experiencing a great deal of pain, and you'll be suffering from it.

When you file a personal injury claim for your accident injuries, can you also hold the driver financially accountable for the pain and suffering you've endured? In many cases, you can.

Pain and suffering is not an easy kind of damage to calculate

Regardless of the nature and/or severity of your injuries, it will be difficult to calculate how much compensation you should receive for your pain and suffering damages. You can calculate damages associated with the cost of medical care, lost wages, property damages and other quantifiable injuries you've incurred, but pain and suffering damages are more abstract.

Abstract damages that courts will consider in your personal injury case include:

  • Mental anguish
  • Physical disfigurement or impairment
  • Potentially shortened life-span
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of companionship
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of reputation

Factors that can influence the size of a damage award for pain and suffering

Due to the subjectivity of the above damage categories, personal injury lawyers must rely on a variety of different factors to arrive at an actual monetary amount that plaintiffs should receive. This includes:

  • How severe the injuries were;
  • Where scarring and disfigurement are located on the patient (in other words, how visible these injuries are);
  • How much time the patient needs to recover;
  • Whether future consequences of the injuries will endure and for how long;
  • How much the patient claimed in other damages; and
  • Whether the plaintiff and/or the personal injury lawyer can win the sympathy of the jury and judge on the case.

The importance of settlement negotiations

Because pain and suffering damages, other categories of damages and the ultimate decision of a court are so difficult to predict, many plaintiffs choose to reach an out of court settlement regarding their claims. This allows both parties to remain in control of the outcome of the proceedings.

In the event that the defense will not cooperate to reach a fair settlement, however, plaintiffs may need to litigate their personal injury claims -- including their claims for pain and suffering damages -- all the way to trial.

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