How Much Can You Expect For Pain and Suffering?
New clients often ask what their case is going to be worth when they recover from their injuries. Early on, there is really no way to give an honest answer to that question until many important facts are known. The same is true when a new client asks about how much money can they expect to recover for their pain and suffering. Again, there are a lot of factors that go into answering that question and may take some time to discover. Until the full extent of the injuries is known, and until those injuries have healed, if they ever fully heal, and until we know that the pain is either gone or here to stay, there is no real way to put a dollar figure on an amount to be paid for pain and suffering.
To understand how to calculate pain and suffering, a good starting point might be the Georgia law on the subject: OCGA 9-10-184 says:
“In the trial of a civil action for personal injuries, counsel shall be allowed to argue the worth or monetary value of pain and suffering to the jury; provided, however, that any such argument shall conform to the evidence or reasonable deductions from the evidence in the case.” Further, when a case is to be decided by a jury, the jury is told by the judge during the jury instructions that the jurors are to use their “enlightened conscience” when deciding the amount of money to be awarded for pain and suffering. That is a term many people have never even heard of or thought of until they sit on a civil jury. It is a term that can mean that they should use their everyday experiences and common sense to put a dollar figure on the amount to award for pain and suffering.
Below are the factors that can be considered when trying to determine what should be paid for pain and suffering. These are not all of the factors, but they are some of the main ones. They are:
- The severity of the injuries
- The permanency of the injuries
- The degree of pain associated with the injury(s) initially and going forward
- The location and intensity of the pain
- Limitations to daily life activities because of the pain
- Limitations to relationships because of the pain
- The loss of ability to enjoy life
- The lost capacity to earn money
- The type of jurors who may end up deciding the case
Another factor for determining pain and suffering is based on who is trying to calculate it. I can assure you that an insurance adjuster is going to have a lower calculation for what pain and suffering is worth than the injured person. To the adjuster, it is a business decision they make many times a day. To the injured person, it is a personal decision based on their experiences and what they have gone through. When the jury trying to calculate pain and suffering, it is normally somewhere in between.
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In these times, most insurance adjusters don’t have a lot of say-so in what is calculated for pain and suffering because the insurance companies have software that does it for them. They type information into the computer based on the injuries, and the software gives them the case values, which include pain and suffering. There is no emotion or compassion involved. On the other hand, a jury uses their enlightened conscious or daily life experiences to determine what the pain and suffering might be worth. If they are the type of person who does not think money can ever make up for pain caused by an injury, they will award very little money for pain and suffering. If they have personally experienced pain, or seen a person close to them experience pain, they may think it takes a lot of money to compensate for pain and suffering.
Let’s look at a few common examples. These are hypotheticals and should only be considered as such. Actual cases vary depending on a number of factors, some of which have been discussed in this article. Let’s assume a person gets hurt in a car wreck, and they get a sprained neck and back, which in the past was called “whiplash”. If we assume the person went to the hospital after the crash for evaluation and then they had physical therapy, or saw a chiropractor, for 3 months after the crash until their injuries healed, what would their pain and suffering be worth over those 3 months? After recovering from their medical bills and lost wages, it would not be unreasonable to expect pain and suffering at $1,000 to $3,000 a month for whiplash injuries and that would be sought for the 3 months there was pain. Insurance adjusters may even think these amounts are too high and jurors in some conservative counties may agree with them. On the other hand, jurors in more liberal-leaning counties may think those numbers are too low for pain and suffering, but they seem to be about average. People who think jurors give out $100,000 awards for pain and suffering in cases with just whiplash injuries are watching too many lawyer commercials on TV. The actors who are on those commercials are just reading a script handed to them and the numbers they give are not close to being accurate for whiplash injuries. We settle a number of cases for over $100,000, but they do not involve cases where there are only whiplash injuries that heal up in 3 months. They would have to involve other factors to drive up the damages, such as a DUI driver who caused the crash.
On the other hand, if the injuries are more severe, and the pain is as well, you can expect a much larger amount of pain and suffering. This is especially true if the pain is expected to be permanent and last a lifetime. Let’s assume a person is hurt in a car wreck and an MRI shows they suffered a herniated disc in their neck that will require injections and even surgery. The pain and suffering that could be expected to be awarded in this case would be much higher, even as $300,000 or more. Another thing to remember is that money paid for pain and suffering is not considered income. It is money paid for damages. For this reason, money paid for pain and suffering is not subject to either state or federal income tax. Income tax is only collected on the income.
For more information about how pain and suffering may be calculated if you are injured, call the experienced injury lawyers at Dan Chapman & Associates at 770-918-1100. We offer free consultations and case evaluations and would be happy to discuss your case with you.