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How Much Pain and Suffering is Enough to Sue?

“Pain and suffering” is a form of compensation available in many civil cases. The courts call these damages “intangible” or “non-economic.” This simply means that this type of damage did not cause financial harm, in contrast to damages such as medical costs or missed time at work.

Physical pain and emotional suffering are just as real to the victims as economic damages, and often more harmful. Suing for pain and suffering is a possibility that can lead to a substantial award depending on the degree of harm. Find out if your case involves enough pain and suffering to merit this type of award in a Texas settlement or judgment.

What Qualifies as “Pain and Suffering?”

Since pain and suffering are intangible damages, some plaintiffs try to take advantage of the system to make these harms seem real when they aren’t, or more dramatic than they are in reality. Some plaintiffs may exaggerate the pain injuries caused, or the emotional trauma accidents left them with. The courts will look at a few main factors to decide whether pain and suffering truly exists in a case:

  1. Type of injury. Catastrophic injuries are those that cause the victim lifelong pain or disability. They include most spine and brain injuries, as well as amputations, scarring, or permanent disfigurement. The courts will award pain and suffering for most catastrophic injuries. Those that cause chronic pain or permanent disability will garner larger awards.
  2. Age of the victim. Younger victims typically receive greater pain and suffering amounts, since the courts assume the victim will have to live with these harms for a longer amount of time than older victims. This is only the case if the nature of the injuries means lifelong pain or disability.
  3. How much the injury affects the victim. The courts will examine the probability of past, present, and future pain and suffering in determining this type of recovery. If there is certainty of future pain, with evidence from a medical examiner or expert key witness, the courts will almost certainly award this recovery.

The courts will not award pain and suffering damages if the plaintiff merely experienced irritation or inconvenience from a minor injury. For example, missing a yoga class because of a broken bone will not qualify as significant enough suffering to demand recovery through this outlet. A broken bone that results in chronic pain, however, may qualify as a serious enough injury to recover pain and suffering damages.

How Do Courts Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages?

If you are eligible to sue for pain and suffering, the courts use a special equation to calculate how much you will receive for theses non-economic damages. Since it isn’t possible to place a dollar amount on an individual’s physical pain and emotional suffering, the courts will multiply the amount of special damages (medical bills, lost income, property damage, etc.) by a number between 1.5 and 5, with 5 representing the highest possible seriousness of injuries.

The courts may alternatively use the “per diem” method instead of the multiplier method. With this type of calculation, the courts will decide on a dollar amount to award the plaintiff “per day” of the injury. The courts may look at your actual daily earnings to come up with this amount, as it deems that the pain your injuries cause is at least comparable to the cost of going to work every day. The courts typically don’t use the per diem method for permanent injuries.

In Texas, there is a cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice claims. A plaintiff cannot receive more than $250,000. There are also total claim caps if the case involves a government entity as the defendant. Always equip yourself with a skilled attorney to fight for pain and suffering damages after any type of accident in Texas.