Pain and suffering is a legal term that refers to any number of injuries that a plaintiff may suffer as a result of an accident. What does it mean when you hear someone refer to ” mental pain and suffering” and how do you know if you are a victim of it? We wanted to clarify this oftentimes confusing term and exactly what it means from a legal perspective.
What is Mental Pain and Suffering?
If you suffered a physical injury to your body as a result of a negligent or willful act of another, this is referred to as physical pain and suffering. Most victims also suffer from varying degrees of emotional distress as a result of their physical injury. You might be entitled to be compensated for mental pain and suffering if there is sufficient evidence to find that the actions of the defendant have caused you emotional trauma.
Emotional distress is very real and extremely debilitating. Any type of negative emotion that you suffer from the physical pain and trauma is considered mental pain and suffering. Examples can include emotional distress, humiliation, grief, fear, anxiety, shock and loss of enjoyment. More severe symptoms such as anger, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, lack of sleeping or eating, PTSD, and depression can also occur as a result of mental pain and suffering.
Calculating Mental Pain and Suffering
How is mental pain and suffering calculated in a personal injury-related lawsuit? Parties have the right to a trial by jury, and in most states the judge advises the jury to use their experience, common sense and background when determining a fair and reasonable figure to compensate the plaintiff for emotional distress. There are no charts or guidelines to determine a figure as each individual’s pain and suffering is different, but some states have a enacted laws which limit the amount of pain and suffering damages that can be awarded by a jury; for example, for medical malpractice cases filed in the State of California there is a cap of $250,000 in damages that can be awarded for any pain and suffering which a victim endures.
There are many factors which can affect the value of pain and suffering damages. Oftentimes, a “multiplier” is used in mental pain and suffering cases. By calculating the plaintiff’s total medical bills and lost earnings by a multiplier, juries can come up with a dollar amount to award to the injured party for mental pain and suffering. Multipliers are typically somewhere between 1.5 and 4 times the value of the plaintiff’s physical damages but you must use an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you because the multiplier concept is a very rough estimate and cannot be applied to all pain and suffering cases.
Proving Mental Pain and Suffering
Proving the claims of mental pain and suffering can be challenging. You must provide evidence and explain how your symptoms affected you in a clear and concise manner. Here are a few examples of tangible evidence of emotional distress:
- Letters from loved ones, employer and co-workers explaining how they have seen your emotional state deteriorate since the accident.
- Professional narratives from a licensed psychiatrist, physician, psychologist or counselor stating their professional evaluation of your mental condition.
- List of prescriptions for any medication you have or are currently taking for depression, fear and other psychological symptoms. You might want to also research each medication to figure out the dosages and intended uses.
- Be sure you are likable, honest and credible as a plaintiff when providing testimony about the emotional distress you have suffered as a result of the actions of another.
Many people suffer injuries as a result of others. If you are a victim of mental pain and suffering due to the negligence of another, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney can help you get what you deserve. Berman & Riedel, LLP, can offer the experience and skill necessary to provide you with sound advice on how to protect your legal rights. Contact an attorney at Berman & Riedel, LLP to discuss your legal options.