When someone suffers a personal injury from the negligence of another, the victim has the right to recover monetary damages. One category of damages is pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is the physical and mental distress suffered from an injury, including actual broken bones and tears. The term also encompasses the aches, pain, limitations on activity, potential shortening of life, depression, and embarrassment from scarring. Collectively, pain and suffering is known as “general damages”.
Pain and suffering is not easy to calculate. There is no set formula that the court can use to determine how much someone should be awarded for pain and suffering. The determination is made on a case-by-case basis because every situation is different. Two people can suffer the same injury and have completely different reactions—one could suffer greatly, while the other might only suffer minimally.
Various factors go into the determination of a pain and suffering award. In a motor vehicle accident case, for example, a victim may have back pain. The credibility of the witnesses is always key. If the victim’s symptoms are typical of someone with a back injury, the fact finder may be inclined to believe the witness and award more money accordingly. If the victim did not have any back pain or physical problems previously, it would be more likely that the victim’s pain and suffering was caused as a direct result of the accident, which would make the negligent party directly liable for the pain and suffering.
If someone is burned and scarred on the face by a professional hair stylist, the pain and suffering can include the actual pain caused by the burn on the face. The damages can also include the emotional scarring that comes with having a mark on the face.
When determining the amount that will be awarded for suffering, the fact finder will consider whether the injured party is able to conduct the daily activities that they performed before the accident occurred. If the victim suffered a slip and fall, and only broke their wrist, the victim will recover a significant amount of money if he or she is unable to work because they primarily work on the computer or a keyboard.
The court may also consider the age of the injured party, their job or income level, and the amount of medical expenses incurred when deciding on a pain and suffering award.
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