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How Can I Prove My Pain and Suffering: Knowing Your Claim’s Worth

Pain and Suffering

pain and suffering

When trying to prove pain and suffering from an accident that resulted in an injury, there are several questions to take into consideration in order to maximize your compensation. Aside from the general question of what exactly pain and suffering is, it’s also important to know if pain and suffering could be awarded in the event of a minor car accident. Additionally, we’ll be discussing insurance companies’ processes of paying for pain and suffering and how they determine the amount allotted and c) what happens if you want to be compensated for pain and suffering damages but didn’t seek medical treatment or an attorney.

Defining Pain and Suffering and Examples

Legally, pain and suffering are inclusive terms that address accident-related injuries that may be hard to assess. Such injuries can include both physical discomfort and mental and emotional distress that typically accompany an injury. And unlike things more easily calculated (such as medical bills and lost wages), these damages (also known as non-economic damages) are used to compensate victims for things such as grief, emotional issues, long-term debilitation, and lost quality of life.

Difficulty in defining pain and suffering centers on the fact that, even if the physical source of pain is visible and seemingly straightforward, other problems associated with the injury often go deeper and cause additional issues. Common physical injuries include things like:

  • Nerve damage which can cause anything — from numbness that reduces a person’s ability to function to nervous tics that are embarrassing or debilitating pain.
  • Scarring, loss of a body part or complications in healing, which can strip skills, confidence and abilities from people, leaving them with mental and emotional issues that interfere with their responsibilities and quality of life.
  • Head trauma and injuries to the brain, which can result in personality changes, depression, mood swings and reduced mental capabilities.
  • Emotional trauma or grief, which can manifest in mental disorders like PTSD, depression and injury-related phobias.

A more comprehensive list of examples of both physical and emotional pain and suffering are listed below:

  • Physical back pain, slipped disk pain, neck pain, muscle strain or sprain
  • Pulled muscle pain Dislocation pain Headaches Nerve damage Broken bone pain
  • Diminished quality of life Lost enjoyment of life Cognitive changes after a head injury
  • Emotional Distress over a disability
  • Embarrassment or humiliation Psychological trauma Post-traumatic stress disorder Losing sleep Anger or frustration

By filing a claim for pain and suffering, attorneys are attempting to win the compensation that will assist their clients in getting the additional care and assistance they need.

Pain and Suffering Damages & Insurance Company Calculations

In most cases where the other party was clearly at fault, the injured party will receive at least some compensation for their pain and suffering. Most insurance companies recognize that people who are injured in a car accident deserve something for their pain and inconvenience. Often, the amount insurance carriers try to get away with is initially very low. But with proper attorney representation, this number can be increased to reach an acceptable sum.

Insurance companies take into account a number of factors when trying to calculate what they should offer for pain and suffering. This includes:

  • The severity of the injuries
  • The pain and overall discomfort that is associated with those types of injuries
  • How the injuries have impacted your life, job, relationships, etc.
  • The amount and types of medical treatment those injuries require
  • How long those injuries take to heal
  • If the injured will need future care, like therapy, medications, surgeries, etc.

Automobile liability policies generally provide coverage for pain and suffering claims. Typically referred to as “bodily injury liability,” this coverage applies to pain and suffering damages, as well as claims for medical bills and lost wages. Bodily injury liability coverage typically has split policy limits. This just means that one number represents the most the insurer will pay to any one claimant, while the other number represents the maximum the insurer will pay for any claim, regardless of the number of claimants involved.

Seeking Compensation With No Medical Treatment or Attorney

The at-fault party’s insurance company will not write you a check for your pain and suffering without seeing proof of their existence.

Any attorney will tell you that it’s incredibly important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after sustaining an injury. Following this advice will ensure your medical records do not raise any red flags with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Keep in mind that if you don’t want to seek medical treatment for your pain and suffering, or didn’t get the chance to, that could cause issues for you down the line when trying to seek compensation.

The at-fault party’s insurance company will not write you a check for your injuries without seeing proof of their existence. For this reason, the insurance adjuster assigned to your case will immediately ask for your medical records so they can verify your injuries. If you have not been to a doctor or hospital since sustaining the injuries, you will have no documentation to prove that your injuries are real. Without proof, the chances of the insurance company rejecting your claim is very high.

Also keep in mind that gaps in treatment could raise red flags. People who waited too long to seek medical treatment after an accident could have trouble recovering the compensation they deserve. If there is a gap of time between the date the injury was sustained and the date of your first doctor’s visit, this can also complicate your claim.

The insurance company views a gap in treatment as an opportunity to lower the value of your claim or reject it altogether. The insurance adjuster may argue that since you waited so long to seek treatment, there’s no way your injuries are as serious as you are claiming. Using this argument, the insurance adjuster will say you are not entitled to nearly as much compensation as you think.

The insurance adjuster can also question how the injuries were sustained. For example, let’s say you were injured in a car accident with the insurance company’s policyholder, but you did not seek medical treatment for five days following the crash. The insurance adjuster may say that there’s no way for them to know whether or not the injuries were actually sustained in the crash since you waited so long to see a doctor.

When deciding whether self-representation is your best option, it helps to consider two key factors — (1) How badly were you hurt? (2) Is it clear that the other party was at fault?

While it’s important to understand what you’re getting into when it comes to self-representation, and it’s always recommended to seek professional guidance on personal injury matters. Nonetheless, you can handle your own personal injury claim without hiring an attorney. And in cases where your injuries are relatively minor and the other side’s fault is pretty clear, it may be wise to do so. This is especially true if you have experience handling your own legal matters in the past, and you’re able and willing to stand up for yourself and your case. But when deciding whether self-representation is your best option, it helps to consider the following two key factors.

How badly were you hurt?

If you were involved in a serious car accident, have undergone extensive medical treatment, lost a fair amount of income, and have experienced significant pain and suffering as a result of your injuries, it’s wise to discuss your case with an experienced injury attorney. When losses (“damages” in legalese) are significant, the stakes increase for everyone — for you because you want fair compensation for your injuries, and for the defendant (usually an insurance company) because they don’t want to pay a large amount to resolve the case.

If you slip and fall in a store and suffer a few bruises, the store may not put up much of a fight, and they may offer a quick settlement to cover your medical bills with a little extra thrown in for your inconvenience. Everyone is (relatively) happy. But with greater damages, things get adversarial, and this is also when you want someone who has experience with the (often hostile) back and forth of litigation.

Is it clear that the other party was at fault?

If it’s obvious that the defendant or one of its employees is to blame for your accident, and you have witnesses who will testify on your behalf, you may find it easier to prove fault, and to get a satisfactory settlement on your own. But, as with the severity-of-injury issue discussed above, you can expect more of a fight if it is not so clear that the defendant is responsible for causing the underlying accident. The defense may even point the finger back at you and say that you weren’t watching where you were going when you slipped, or you were driving too fast and could have avoided the car accident, or you fell down some stairs because you were on your phone (not because the stairs were faulty).

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