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Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering?

Understanding How Pain and Suffering Lawsuits Work

Each year, over 400,000 personal injury lawsuits are filed. In these lawsuits, you often hear people talking about compensation for "pain and suffering," but what does this really mean? Check out our guide to learn how lawsuits for pain and suffering work.

What Does It Mean to Sue for Pain and Suffering?

"Pain and suffering" is a legal term used to refer to any non-economic losses. In most personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs are just asking to be reimbursed for costs like medical bills, damaged belongings, or lost wages. However, not all types of damages are straightforward. Sometimes, a party's negligence leads to broader, but just as important, damages. As the name implies, these sorts of damages include a range of painful circumstances. Pain and suffering can include physical pain, like nerve damage after a car accident, and it can also include mental pain, like the trauma caused by losing a hand. The pain and suffering in this sort of lawsuit can either be a temporary issue that occurs while recovering from injury, or it can be a permanent issue that affects the rest of your life.

Who Is Allowed to Sue for Pain and Suffering?

Pennsylvania's rules about suing for pain and suffering are very broad, so many people are allowed to seek this sort of legal compensation. In Pennsylvania, you can file a pain and suffering case whenever the suffering is linked to some sort of obvious injury. This means that you will need actual, physical proof of a problem. Your pain and suffering itself can be a vague description of mental trauma, but it must be caused by a clearly definable issue, like an accident, a physical attack, or a defective and dangerous product. People can sue for pain and suffering even if they were not the primary victims of an event. It is quite common for spouses and children of a victim to sue for pain and suffering, especially if the original victim has passed away and can no longer sue on their own behalf. In some cases, the plaintiff in a pain and suffering case might also be an unrelated person who witnessed or was otherwise involved in the event. Keep in mind that there are a few exceptions. In most cases, government agencies are not liable for the pain and suffering they may cause. Likewise, some automobile policies may exclude pain and suffering compensation without certain types of proof. You also need to remember that there is a statute of limitations for these lawsuits because it is harder to prove your case if you wait too long. You need to file your claim within two years of the incident or within two years of discovering the pain and suffering. The laws around pain and suffering can be complex, so it is a good idea to consult with an Allentown personal injury lawyer about all the legal fine print.

Examples of Pain and Suffering Lawsuits

Since the entire idea of pain and suffering can be a little vague, it is helpful to look at some real world examples. Pain and suffering lawsuits often occur in these types of situations:
  • Following an accident, you get a compressed disk that causes you intense pain with most normal movements.
  • Your injuries prevent you from being able to work, and your inability to be a breadwinner causes you intense mental distress.
  • Due to the intense injuries faced by your partner, you can longer enjoy spousal intimacy with them.
  • You get severely burned by a malfunctioning product, and the scars make you feel embarrassed to go in public.
  • Another person died in front of you due to an unsafe workplace, and you have mental trauma due to witnessing the violent event.
  • Your loss of a limb makes it impossible to participate in a hobby that was deeply meaningful to you.
  • You need repeated surgeries to address the consequences of an accident, so you have to deal with multiple long, painful recoveries.
  • You have insomnia after witnessing a traumatic event, making it difficult to remain alert and to enjoy life during the day.

What Compensation Can You Get for Pain and Suffering?

Compensation for pain and suffering can be a little complex. Unlike compensation for an economic loss, there is no receipt you can show that explains the exact financial value of your loss. Instead of a clear-cut dollar-for-dollar award, you and your Allentown personal injury lawyer have to put a dollar amount on emotions and physical sensations. There are a few different ways your lawyer may suggest calculating compensation. They may start by looking at the economic costs related to things like medical treatments, mental therapy, or loss of work. Then they might multiply this by a number between one to five, depending on your amount of suffering. Sometimes, the compensation might be a set rate of compensation you get for each day you experience the pain and suffering. Whatever the amount you come up with, this is usually just a starting point for negotiations. Once your lawyer requests this amount of compensation, the judge and jury may look it over and choose to either reduce or to increase the amount of compensation owed. There are several factors that the court will take into account, including:
  • Whether the pain and suffering is permanent or temporary
  • Your age and how long you will have to live with the pain and suffering
  • How much your injury has changed your life
  • What your lifestyle was like before the injury
  • The overall severity of your pain and suffering

How to Prove Your Pain and Suffering in Court

The other tricky part about these sorts of lawsuits is actually arguing it in court. It is not enough to just walk into court and say, "My back hurts, so please give me money." Like any other personal injury lawsuit, you will need to provide proof. How do you prove something as intangible as pain, anguish, or suffering? The better your proof, the more likely you are to get your desired compensation. For any physical pain, medical evidence can be very helpful. Your medical records can show proof of you repeatedly seeking help for pain, and they can show why your injuries would reasonably cause pain. For mental anguish, evidence from a therapist can be similarly useful. You can also provide evidence like witness testimony or personal statements. In these cases, the plaintiff presenting a well-written statement of how the injury has changed their life for the worse can be very convincing to a judge or jury. It is also helpful to have your friends and loved ones discuss how your life and how their relationships with you have changed due to the pain and suffering you have experienced. In any personal injury case, having a good lawyer on your side is important. They can help you gather evidence, understand the laws around your suit, and present your claims in court. At Metzger & Kleiner, we have years of experience helping Philadelphia residents seek compensation for the losses that they have sustained. Our team is happy to provide a free consultation and to discuss your case with you now. Give us a call today at 215-567-6616 or fill out our online contact form.

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