How is Pain and Suffering Determined in a Car Accident?
It’s common knowledge by now that Florida drivers have the right to pursue compensation for damages caused by a negligent third party. However, Florida is also a no-fault state meaning that all parties involved in an accident must first seek compensation from their own policies. In instances where the accident-related damages exceed one’s coverage amount, he or she has the right to take legal action against the liable party.
Car accident damage claims go through civil court where individuals can file claims for everything from property damage to medical expenses. One of the most common alongside the aforementioned is pain and suffering. This is a damage that many people have heard of, but few understand what constitutes as pain and suffering and how the courts settle on a compensation amount.
So what exactly is pain and suffering and how much can I expect to recover for it?
What Exactly is Pain and Suffering?
Damages in a car accident claim are grouped into one of the following two groups:
- Economic Damages: Expenses that you must pay for out of pocket as a result of the accident (ex. lost wages, medical bills, property damage, etc.)
- Non-Economic Damages: Costs of an accident that can’t be measured with a dollar amount (ex. emotional trauma, loss of consortium, mental anguish, etc.)
Pain and suffering falls into the latter group making it difficult to quantify seeing as there’s no tool or equation used to translate a feeling into monetary compensation. However, pain and suffering deals with more than just your emotional state. There is both a physical and mental aspect of pain and suffering:
- Physical: Deals with the pain you experience while recovering from injuries and long-term pain that may inhibit your ability to perform certain tasks.
- Mental: All emotions that result from the accident like fear, anxiety, depression, and more.
How Florida Recognizes Pain and Suffering
For starters, to collect compensation for pain and suffering, you’re required by Florida Statute § 627.737 to have a “permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.” If that doesn’t apply, then you must have significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; and if that isn’t the case either, the claimant must have died as a result of the accident, and the estate is bringing forth the claim on his or her behalf.
Not everyone’s pain and suffering is the same. Someone involved in a multi-car pile-up on the interstate who spent weeks in the hospital will have gone through much more than someone who experienced minor neck pain after a rear-end collision.
Thus the state allows car accident victims to present evidence of their pain and suffering to help them calculate damages. The factors they’ll consider include the:
- Severity of your injury
- Type of treatment you received
- Length of recovery
- Affect of the injury on your life
The impact the accident had on you in these five areas will play a vital role in determining how much compensation you’ll receive for pain and suffering.
How to Support a Pain and Suffering Claim
Being that pain and suffering can be difficult to articulate, one must make a concerted effort to compile documents to provide to the court that clearly expresses the extent of their pain and suffering. Having the following can help bring validity to your claim and maximize your compensation amount:
- A doctor’s written observation of your pain and suffering
- A personal testimony of how the accident deteriorated your day-to-day life
- An experts opinion on your state of mind in comparison to others in similar situations
- Recent prescriptions as a result of the accident (anxiety pills, pain pills, etc.)
- A mental health professional’s opinion on your state of mind
- Testimonies from family members or your spouse who can attest to how your pain and suffering has affected your relationship with them
In producing these documents, it’s essential that you remain transparent and only state the facts. Don’t attempt to bolster your claim by exaggerating pain or mental anguish as it can be counterproductive to your cause.
Experienced Legal Counsel from a Knowledgeable Attorney
While there is much you can do to help your claim, nothing beats having the legal counsel of an attorney who has successfully recovered compensation for people just like you. The Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers at Salpeter Gitkin, LLP have decades of experience helping South Florida car accident victims recover tens of millions of dollars in compensation. Allow us to do the same for you. Contact us today at (954) 467-8622 for a free case evaluation.