PAIN AND SUFFERING, WHAT GIVES?
A client recently asked whether she can recover pain and suffering damages. She quickly followed up with another question – what counts as pain and suffering? These questions appear simple – were you in pain and did your suffer? However, what counts as pain and suffering is not so cut and dry. With a better understanding of pain and suffering damages, hopefully these questions of become more clear.
If you are like me, you have stubbed your toe. Whether on a door jam or a heat register, it hurts! The pain is sharp and immediate. Luckily after a few minutes the pain subsides. You certainly felt pain, and you suffered for a short time, but are you owed anything for your trouble… probably not.
In Ohio there are two types of damages – economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical bills and other expenses that generally including receipts detailing the exact amount. Non-economic damages are difficult to assign values, such as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering includes losses of comfort, happiness, and opportunity following an injury. Examples include: the loss of independence, the ability to do a hobby; or the ability to spend time with family and friends.
Take for example Valerie Ballet, an avid dancer. One afternoon Valerie is involved in a car accident. She fractures her ankle and has cuts on her face from the shattered windshield. Assuming the other driver’s fault, Valerie will likely be compensated for her medical bills and other economic damages. Due to her injury Valerie is unable to continue dancing. Valerie is also very self-conscious of her scars on her face. She avoids public places and spending time with her family and friends. Valerie should be awarded damages for her pain and suffering – her inability to dance, go out in public, and spend time with family and friends. Valerie and her attorney will discuss her love of dancing and her self-conscious feelings in order to maximize the value of her pain and suffering damages.
Pain and suffering does not come with a receipt, so how do you assign a value? Think – how much money would you accept in exchange for your independence? There is no easy answer, other than whatever is reasonable. Sometimes the value for pain and suffering is found by multiplying medical expenses by a number based on the severity of all the negative effects on your daily life. This is rare because there often is no strong correlation between medical bills and pain and suffering. In these cases a value may be calculated based on the negative effects each day caused by your injury. This value is then multiplied by the number of days effected, counting both days in the past and future. In summary, there is no definite way to determine your pain and suffering damages. With this in mind, it is important to be prepared to discuss any effects of your injuries with your attorney in order to ensure accurate pain and suffering damages.
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