In a personal injury case how is “pain and suffering” defined, and how is it calculated?
“Pain and suffering represents physical pain and emotional distress that you suffer as a result of an accident,” said attorney Brian Weber. “It can include actual pain and discomfort, depression, anxiety and memory loss. It also can include physical limitations as a result of the accident because you can’t do the things you used to do.”
Pain and suffering is one of three components considered in personal injury cases—the other two being past and future medical bills, and past and future lost income. Medical bills and lost income are pretty tangible while pain and suffering is more difficult to define.
“In reality, pain and suffering is not concrete,” Weber said. “What you might consider pain and suffering may not be a big deal to someone else, or it could be the worst thing that ever happened to them even though you wouldn’t. It is very subjective.”
In working with clients, Weber uses his personal injury experience and that of his law partners to determine a range for what the pain and suffering is worth. “I suggest resolution if an offer is within that range.”
If the case goes to trial, pain and suffering is simply what the jury decides it is. Jury makeup has an impact on how it decides. A juror with a history of back pain, for example, may be more sympathetic to a claim of chronic pain – or even more opposed because they deal with pain every day without any compensation.
It is in the final arguments before the jury that an amount is first recommended—higher by the plaintiff’s attorney and lower by the defense lawyer.
“Jurors listen to all the testimony and come up with a number,” Weber said. “I get surprised from time to time. Sometimes juries give far more than expected and sometimes far less. We can’t predict with any certainty what the jury will do, but we do know a range of what is expected.”
Information provided by Brian Weber, personal injury lawyer in La Crosse WI. For a La Crosse personal injury lawyer, call him at 608-784-5678.