Pain and suffering awards in personal injury claims are among the more debated aspects of personal injury law. When it comes to making a claim against a negligent party following an injury, most aspects of the claim come with some form of physical proof and documentation. For instance, claims for medical bills are often accompanied by receipts, and claims for lost wages often come along with a IRS documentation or other proof of earned income.
Pain and suffering, however, is a far more nebulous area of personal injury law because it can be very hard to quantify. Furthermore, while personal injury lawyers might use guidelines in order to determine how much to seek in pain and suffering, there is no universal standard, as every case is unique. Individuals sue for pain and suffering for a variety of reasons. They may sue because of aches and pains, reduced mobility, limitations of ability following an injury, or for depression. As any doctor will tell you, pain is a subjective experience. Many clinicians use the Numeric Rating Scale, a scale from one to ten in which patients self-report on their own pain. Research published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that the Numeric Rating Scale may not be as accurate as its frequent use indicates. In many cases, pain ratings did not correlate to actual limitations in functioning for individuals self-reporting pain. Contact a personal injury lawyer like The Law Offices of Louis Podel to see if you are entitled to compensation from pain and suffering or loss of work from a auto accident or slip and fall injury.
Yet, does this mean that pain and suffering awards should be eliminated from personal injury claims altogether? Peter A. Ubel and George Loewenstein, writing for Carnegie Mellon University challenged the popular notion that pain and suffering awards should be viewed so literally in their article, “Pain and Suffering Awards: They Shouldn’t Be (Just) About Pain and Suffering.” When it comes to evaluating levels of happiness following serious injuries such as paraplegia or blindness, researchers have found that an individual’s level of overall happiness generally levels out back to the person’s happiness baseline prior to the injury. Initially this argument may suggest that pain and suffering claims should not be allowed. However, when courts award pain and suffering damages, happiness is not the only factor under consideration. For instance, individuals care more about things other than just happiness. Capability, meaning, and a range of experiences are also of value to individuals. Serious, disabling personal injuries can change the ways in which individuals experience the world, and therefore, pain and suffering is a valid factor to consider when determining monetary awards for personal injury. The researchers suggested that while future happiness or unhappiness may not be a valid factor in determining pain and suffering due to an individual’s ability to adapt to an injury, an individual’s personal preference to be healthy should be taken into account. In general, patients suffering from chronic disability claimed in many cases that they would be willing to give up years of their lives in order to live in a healthy state. The researchers also argued, that while a debilitating injury may not necessarily “detract from happiness” it “detracts from welfare,” given that a person may not be able to engage in the same variety of life experience as a result of the injury.
As it stands, the size of a personal injury settlement depends largely on the long-term effect of the injuries and on the severity of the injury. Often these determinations are made by evaluating the cost of medical care and the possible future medical costs an individual may require. But of course, medical costs alone are not the only factor under consideration. Psychological trauma is also a factor that must be considered.
Critics of pain and suffering awards argue that individuals sometimes exaggerate their losses in order to claim more money. In some cases, emotional pleas are used in court that could distort a judge or jury’s decision. Even so, economists and researchers suggest that these arguments shouldn’t lead to the wholesale elimination of the pain and suffering award, but rather, should lead to a better method of evaluating pain and suffering damages in court. For instance, in Pennsylvania, personal injury damages are reduced if the injured individual is partly at fault for the accident. So, if the injured person is 25% at fault, the award will be reduced to reflect this. Even so, pain and suffering awards still will vary from case to case and will likely be based on what a judge or jury believes is a fair amount.
Individuals who have suffered from a personal injury should always seek the help of a qualified lawyer who can help them determine an adequate pain and suffering demand.
For more information and answers to your legal questions for a case in Pennsylvania, visit www.louispodel.com.