Serious injuries are costly. They often result in a pile of ongoing medical bills and, in some cases, lost income due to an inability to work. But the costliest impacts of a serious injury are often those that are harder to quantify.
Pain and suffering are both crucial parts of an injury claim, but many people misunderstand what these damages are and how they’re factored into a claim. To help you better understand your rights after a crash, let’s explore what “pain and suffering” means and how it affects accident victims.
What Is Meant by Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering are considered non-economic damages, as opposed to expenses like medical bills or lost income, which are considered economic, or monetary, damages. Pain and suffering include the many consequences of an injury that aren’t considered financial in nature. Massachusetts law requires a judge specifically mention the following areas of loss that are compensable:
Physical pain and suffering includes:
- Each area of the body in which you find the plaintiff was physically injured.
Mental pain and suffering includes any and all:
- nervous shock
- mental anguish resulting from the injury.
- loss of pleasures which he (she) otherwise probably would have had in the form of work
- loss of pleasures which he (she) otherwise probably would have had in the form of play
- loss of pleasures which he (she) otherwise probably would have had in the form of family life
- loss of pleasures which he (she) otherwise probably would have had in the form of whatever.
- The plaintiff is entitled to full compensation for any reduction in the enjoyment of life
- emotional disturbance
- deterioration of her physical and emotional health
- the adverse emotional impact on her resulting from her awareness of her shortened life expectancy.
It’s worth noting that the label of “non-economic” damages is misleading. Your physical and emotional suffering has very real financial consequences.
Severe pain, depression, and anxiety can make it more likely that you suffer health complications and incur other medical expenses. They can make it more difficult to perform or maintain your job, connect with loved ones, and enjoy life to its fullest.
Researchers have found that pain is very costly, both on an individual and a societal level. The estimated annual cost of pain in the U.S. is greater than the costs of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Studies also show that depression, a condition closely linked with chronic pain, is associated with lower rates of employment, marriage, exercise, and health insurance coverage. It’s also associated with higher rates of low income and substance abuse.
Massachusetts Laws About Pain and Suffering
In Massachusetts, you cannot obtain pain and suffering damages from car crash injuries unless the associated monetary damages are at least $2000. Exceptions can be made if the injury involves disfigurement, death, permanent injury, scarring, hearing loss, vision loss, or broken bones.
Claims against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and other government agencies within Massachusetts are often governed by the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, which tries to limit pain and suffering to $100,000 or less.
Medical malpractice cases also have a $500,000 limit, or “cap,” on pain and suffering damages. But that limit does not apply in cases involving significant disfigurement, loss of bodily functions, and other circumstances that require special consideration.
How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated?
Pain and suffering damages are less clearly defined than economic damages. However, these types of damages are often far greater than monetary ones. If you hire a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim, they will use their experience and knowledge of the law to calculate a figure that accurately represents your suffering.
Your attorney will also look at your ability to do your job and perform routine tasks. They’ll speak to your loved ones to determine how greatly an injury has impacted your well-being and quality life.
Non-economic damages measure your loss of enjoyment of life. Perhaps you experienced challenges that were severe, but only for a short time. Or maybe your life was interrupted to a lesser extent, but it continues to affect you on a daily basis. Asking yourself what you would want to receive in compensation for enduring these life changing events is how non-economic damages are often determined.
Can You Actually Prove Pain and Suffering?
Yes, non-economic damages can absolutely be proven. Pain and suffering aren’t as abstract as they might seem, and there are several ways an attorney will show a jury how serious someone’s suffering truly is.
Pictures of an injury illustrate how painful it is. Records of medical bills, missed time at work, doctor’s appointments, and prescription medication demonstrate more than just economic damages; they can show the totality of what a person has endured because of the at-fault party’s negligence.
Finally, one of the most powerful ways to show a jury how much suffering an injured person has endured is through testimony. In some cases, the injured person’s own words show the extent of their pain and suffering. Often, it’s the testimony of close friends, community members and family that reveal how significantly an injury has affected someone’s life.
If You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer in Massachusetts, Contact Us
The Boston personal injury attorneys at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers have years of experience calculating the value of pain and suffering for our clients. If you’d like to speak to our team, contact us anytime, 24/7, for a free, no-obligation consultation. Let us help you explore your legal options and determine exactly how much compensation you deserve.