How Is Pain and Suffering Proven?
Personal injury incidents such as slip and fall accidents, dog bite attacks, vehicle crashes, and medical malpractice scenarios often leave victims with serious injuries that require treatment and surgery. Some victims may even initially survive an injury incident only to lose their lives after being hospitalized for days or weeks. The common element here is that personal injury victims often spend significant time languishing in pain and suffering before ultimately reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI), or until it claims their life.
While many individuals worry about the monetary losses associated with personal injury incidents, like medical bills and losses, pain and suffering have a price too. Below, we’ll explain how pain and suffering is proven and how Baltimore insurance companies and personal injury attorneys assign a monetary value to non-economic damages such as this.
What Constitutes Pain and Suffering?
Individuals hurt in personal injury incidents in Baltimore may experience a variety of health setbacks. One common one is pain and suffering, which may include:
- Mental health and behavioral concerns, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, or even suicidality
- Scarring or disfigurement and embarrassment, anxiety, or humiliation experienced due to it
- Discomfort or pain and associated mental anguish associated with an actual injury and how it may adversely impact them in the future
- The disappointment or disillusionment someone has at losing their ability to participate in recreational activities, socialize with others, enjoy the companionship of others, or hold down the career that they once did
As you can tell, a variety of concerns may warrant you requesting compensation for non-monetary damages such as pain and suffering.
Documenting Pain and Suffering Endured in a Civil Legal Case
Due to the complexity of proving liability in Maryland civil cases, it’s best if you have a personal injury attorney guide you through the process. Your lawyer will likely compile the following information to show the extent to which you suffered pain and suffering:
Your doctors’ records can prove how severe your injuries or illness was or continue to be. While these records don’t directly speak to the pain and suffering that you’ve endured, therapist records, if they exist, may paint a picture of how significantly the harm you’ve suffered has impacted you, both physically and emotionally.
Doctors, therapists, colleagues, friends, family members, and others may be called upon to provide testimony about the impact an incident has had on you and your life.
They’ll know if you are suffering from functional impairments that limit your ability to perform work-related tasks that you once did, participate in extracurricular activities that you once enjoyed, or derive enjoyment out of spending time with family members as you once did.
Photographs and videos, such as ones you might have previously posted on social media and even personal journal entries can provide insight into who you were pre-incident compared to who you are now. It’s not uncommon for personal injury attorneys to ask their clients to make daily journal entries documenting their emotions and other aspects of how they’re coping with the aftermath of their incident.
It’s not uncommon for personal injury attorneys like ours at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC to bring in medical experts, such as spinal cord injury (SCI), internal organ damage, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and PTSD specialists into cases. They often do so to have them share their professional insight into how injuries or illnesses affect patients.
Personal injury attorneys most commonly call on these expert witnesses to testify in cases that are going to trial to persuade the jury that the plaintiff warrants receiving justification for the pain and suffering they’ve endured.
How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?
If you’re trying to figure out how to calculate emotional pain and suffering, know that the number your personal injury attorney is likely to come up with will be quite different from what an insurance company does.
How Insurance Companies Quantify Pain and Suffering
Insurers generally plug demographic, income, and other victim data into a computer program. These systems compare that data with life expectancy (actuary) tables and financial forecasting data. These programs are responsible for the low-ball offers insurance adjusters offer individuals injured or surviving family members of those killed in car wrecks and other motor vehicle accidents like truck collisions and motorcycle crashes.
How Personal Injury Attorneys Determine What Pain and Suffering Is Worth
Personal injury lawyers like ours here in Baltimore at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC calculate pain and suffering using the per diem or multiplier method.
Understanding How the Per Diem Method Works
The terminology “per diem” means “by the day.” This method involves a certain amount being set aside for each post-crash day until a personal injury victim reaches MMI.
For example, say a car accident victim typically works 300 days per year and has an annual salary of $50,000. To reach their per diem rate, you would typically take their yearly income and divide it by the number of days they work each year. So, in this case, the per diem rate would be just over $166 per day.
Therefore, if 60 days pass from the time of the accident until a victim reaches MMI in the scenario described here, the pain and suffering amount they could recover would be $9,960.
The inherent problem associated with the per diem approach is that while it is ideal for calculating pain and suffering immediately following an accident, it doesn’t account for potential flare-ups down the road that may also cause you to experience physical discomfort or mental anguish.
Understanding How the Multiplier Method Works
This method requires personal injury attorneys to assign a multiplier of between 1.5-5 to injuries relative to their severity.
More serious, permanent injuries such as TBIs and SCIs tend to demand a higher multiplier than ones that victims can reasonably recover from in time. Factors such as the duration of the pain and suffering and its impact on a victim’s life can also impact the multiplier assigned to a personal injury victim’s injuries.
Generally, the multiplier would be applied to economic costs associated with treating the injury to arrive at the pain and suffering damage amount.
Is There a Cap on Pain and Suffering Settlements in Maryland?
Maryland does place a cap on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering damages that a plaintiff can recover. The 2022 survival action cap for pain and suffering in Maryland injury or wrongful death cases is $905,000 per act or omission. The 2022 wrongful death claim limit, when there are two or more beneficiaries, is $1,380,000.
All this means that you can recover just under $2.5 million in non-economic pain and suffering damages that results in a wrongful death in Maryland.
The state’s pain and suffering damages cap increases to keep up with inflation annually during October.
Where To Find Help in Securing Compensation for Pain and Suffering
It’s a plaintiff’s responsibility to prove liability in a personal injury case. They generally must do so by:
- Showing that a defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff
- Presenting evidence suggesting that the defendant breached their duty
- Showing that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries
- Producing proof that the plaintiff suffered some quantifiable losses due to the defendant’s actions
Proving liability is best left to personal injury attorneys with experience building Baltimore cases like yours. Following the steps above is the first of many steps you must follow to prove pain and suffering occurred and recover compensation for what you endured. Contact our attorneys here at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC to discuss your case and how to move forward in it.
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