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How Is Pain and Suffering Determined After an Accident?

In 2018, a West Virginia jury ordered a man to pay $7.6 million to the family of a 20-year-old woman he struck and killed in 2016 while driving drunk.  The award included $500,000 to compensate for the pain and suffering the victim experienced in the six hours between the time she was hit and the time she died.

It seems impossible to put a price on the sadness, fear, depression, anxiety and other aspects of emotional turmoil that follow an accident or wrongdoing.  There may be no amount of money that will allow an injured person to regain the type of joy or comfort they felt before an accident occurred, but compensation can be a much-needed resource for people whose suffering has been debilitating.

There is no strict formula for calculating the value of pain and suffering. Lawyers consider a number of factors when deciding the amount of monetary compensation to seek on behalf of clients. The following considerations may be taken into account when estimating pain and suffering damages:

  • Severity of injury — Serious injuries may come with more psychological trauma than minor injuries. The medical treatment applied to an injury may be used to help calculate pain and suffering.
  • Mental anguish — A jury may consider, for example, the embarrassment a victim feels about a new physical disfigurement or the crippling anxiety a victim experiences when remembering the accident.
  • Medical evidence — A doctor’s detailed assessment can help a jury to understand the medical basis for a victim’s suffering.
  • Recovery time — Larger awards will likely be given for permanent or long-lasting injuries than for temporary suffering.
  • Fault — If another party is clearly responsible for an accident, such as when a drunk driver hits a pedestrian, higher awards may be given than in circumstances where liability is harder to prove.
  • A day in the life — By considering how a day in the victim’s life has changed since the accident, from the minor inconveniences to the major life shifts that have resulted, jury members may be better able to come up with a compensation figure that fits the circumstances.

Ultimately, the jury in a civil court case has the right to decide what amount of compensation is appropriate for pain and suffering.

Some states limit the amount of money that can be awarded for pain and suffering. Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina all impose some sort of limitation on what a jury can award for pain and suffering.  Damage caps may also depend on the type of case. For example, West Virginia places a cap on pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases but not for pain and suffering caused by the manufacturer of a defective product.

The lawyers at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban help victims of drunk driving accidents and other accidents to seek compensation for their pain and suffering.  To schedule a free initial consultation at one of our offices, call us at (888) 351-1038 or contact us online. We have locations in the Carolinas and Virginia.

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