If you've been injured in an accident that wasn't your fault, you may be asking yourself a lot of question. How will I pay my medical bills? What about missed wages? If your injury was the direct result of someone else's carelessness or negligence, you may be entitled to cover your medical bills, missed wages, and pain and suffering. In a personal injury case, the victim is allowed to sue for "pain and suffering." Pain and suffering isn't a cut and dry amount of money waiting in your mailbox like a medical bill. Pain and suffering is subjective – even relative. Thus, suing for pain and suffering can be confusing.
In order to get financial compensation for pain and suffering, your injury must be relatively substantial; a jury won't award you money for a minor or inconvenient injury. Generally speaking, money paid for pain and suffering includes past, present, and future physical distress. There are several factors that contribute to a jury's decision to award money for pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit. You might be surprised, but juries rarely have help deciding how much money to award a victim for pain and suffering. However, many juries are extremely effective in their pain and suffering decision making process.
It is the responsibility of the juror to reasonably compensate the victim for any non-economic losses they sustained during the injury. Typically, juries look at the age of the injured party, the magnitude of the original damages, and the extent to which the damages will continue in the future. As a general principal, traumatic brain injuries as well as injuries that will cause the victim chronic pain in the future. Because pain and suffering is subjective, jury awards for pain and suffering sustained in a personal injury are extremely hard to predict.
While calculating the amount of money a victim should be paid for pain and suffering, jurors may be refused access to past cases involving similar injuries. Sometimes, the jury choses an amount of money that they believe the victim should receive every day and multiply it by the amount of time the victim is expected to live. For example, a victim suffering from chronic back pain after an auto accident may be awarded significant money for an injury if they experience daily pain but are expected to live for twenty more years.
After the jury has chosen an the amount to be awarded, the amount may be modified for three reasons: a procedural issue is brought to light that affects the outcome of the case, a liability cap requires that the amount be adjusted, the judge believes that the amount is excessive and adjusts it. The judge may lower the amount awarded through the process of remittitur. Currently Florida has specific caps placed on the amount of money that a medical malpractice victim can receive.
Several years ago, a woman died of blood loss in the hospital after giving birth. Her family was awarded $2 million by the jury for pain and suffering, but the amount was later cut in half because Florida law only allows $1 million to be awarded in such a situation. The woman's family is now battling the courts for the other $1 million, claiming that the state has not reason to place a cap on medical malpractice pain and suffering awards.
Pain and suffering awards are often modified, partially because juries have so little guidance when calculating the award. On the other hand, because pain and suffering is not a concrete amount like a medical bill or missed wages, the courts allow jurors to make their own calculations. While pain and suffering awards are helpful, juries may have trouble translating non-economic suffering into concrete, financial amounts of money. If you have suffered a personal injury and believe that you deserve money for your pain and suffering, discuss your case with an attorney from our firm so we can help you understand your legal rights.