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Attorney Pepper DeVaughn

How Pain and Suffering Is Determined in a Personal Injury Case

In Oklahoma civil litigation, compensation for personal injuries falls into two categories. “Special damages” refers to quantifiable monetary losses, such as medical bills or loss of income. The second category, “general damages,” refers to losses that are much harder to quantify. General damages include pain and suffering, and they are an important part of making up for the unfair losses and hardship a personal injury victim experiences.

Putting a dollar amount on these losses is naturally difficult. How much should one charge to put up with pain, after all? Questions like that are so abstract as to feel illogical. Yet, victims with personal injury cases, that want to claim fair compensation for things the defendant put them through, will somehow have to come up with a number. Here are some of the ways they can do it:

Pain and Suffering Estimation Methods

Since an amount of pain and suffering can feel like an abstract concept, coming up with a concrete number requires some measure of estimation. Legal teams will use these estimates as references before calculating a number based more on the individual circumstances of the case.

Note that because of this subjectivity and the complexity of each individual case, there will never be a set way to calculate pain and suffering. Only an experienced personal injury attorney can both arrive at a sensible, fair number and convince a jury that number is what their client deserves.

One method of estimating pain and suffering relates to the total medical expenses and other direct financial losses of the plaintiff. Since the value of time not spent suffering is precious, attorneys will sometimes multiply the total past and future medical expenses by 1.5 to arrive at a number 50% higher than the special damages. Other attorneys may increase or decrease this number to account for relative differences in medical circumstances.

Another method of estimating pain and suffering is to put a dollar amount on the days spent grappling with severe discomfort. By determining a “daily rate” based on both the severity of pain and the limitations imposed by the injuries — e.g., not being able to walk, having headaches that make reading or other activities unpleasant — you could then multiply that rate by the total days taken to heal.

Again, these methods are just ballpark estimates. Each case will differ, therefore the method used to arrive at a number will differ. Some injuries have limited medical expenses but enormous suffering, for instance.

How Insurers and Defendants View Pain and Suffering

Another important concept to grasp with pain and suffering is how a defendant or insurer will attempt to quantify the victim’s general damages. Namely, they will look for documentable evidence that the plaintiff did or did not suffer.

Medical exam reports are a primary source of this evidence, so plaintiffs must be sure to be precise, descriptive and thorough when describing pain to a medical doctor. Otherwise, the plaintiff will be unable to connect their assertions to documentable evidence. Also, the defense can ask questions like “If the plaintiff was in pain, why didn’t they tell the doctor?”

For this reason, seeking medical treatment is extremely important for documenting both direct financial losses and pain and suffering. “Toughing it out” by foregoing pain medications, going to work with your injury or skipping the doctor altogether only gives off the appearance that your pain and suffering was minimal. So, even for injuries that are difficult to treat, like a damaged coccyx, going to a physician and being explicit about all of your symptoms is crucial to later assessing pain and suffering.

Building Your Personal Injury Case

To increase your chances of obtaining rightful compensation for an injury, solicit the help of an Oklahoma personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Call (405) 546-2139 for Oklahoma City area cases or (918) 218-2987 for Tulsa cases to receive a free personal injury consultation today.

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