People often hear the term pain and suffering connected with a truck accident. It is one of those legal terms that is often used but little understood by many when they suffered injuries in a crash. While we can provide a legal definition of the term, how it is applied may vary widely in your case. Regardless of how the insurance company or jury ends up trying to calculate your award, there is a large amount of subjectivity that comes into play. A truck accident lawyer is a must to fight for a fair and equitable damages award that includes the proper compensation for pain and suffering.
The first thing you would need to do after a truck accident is to prove that the driver was at fault for the crash. Proving liability is not an easy task. You must demonstrate to an insurance company or a jury that the driver acted unreasonably through either physical evidence or statements about the crash. At first, the insurance companies will need to decide about who is at fault for the crash.
Once you prove liability, which often falls with the truck driver and/or trucking company, you will need to prove your damages, including those involving pain and suffering. If you experienced pain and suffering from your injuries, you want a highly experienced truck accident attorney handling your claim.
You Deserve Financial Compensation for All of Your Damages
Assuming that the insurance companies have found that someone else is responsible for your injuries, you deserve financial compensation for all the damages that you have suffered. Determining damages is perhaps the hardest part of the case. Here, you must agree with the insurance company on the right amount of your settlement agreement. In nearly every case, you will have a difference in opinion about the size of the check you should receive.
Damages in your trucking accident case should put you in the same position as if the accident never happened. Of course, it is impossible to roll back the clock, restore your property, and take away your injuries. However, an insurance company or the court will assign a dollar value to various things that you lost in your truck crash and total them up for your compensation.
Your damage award from a semi-truck accident may include:
- Lost wages
- Property damages
- Cost of medical expenses
- Property damage
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
Accident Damage Awards Can Be Subjective and Hard to Value
In reality, most elements of your semi-truck accident claim will be hard to value. You can rest assured that the insurance company will have their own opinion of how much your damages are, and it will undoubtedly be lower than what you say. The same applies to economic damages such as lost wages and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. In part, this is because there is both a past and future element to these damages.
Your attorney will review your case file and form a professional opinion about how much your case is worth. At the same time, the army of insurance adjusters and attorneys on the other side will have their own viewpoint.
Questions Clients Have About Pain and Suffering Damages
One of the biggest reasons why the two sides reach such widely differing numbers is because pain and suffering is very difficult to value and compensate.
Common questions from accident victims include:
- How would an insurance company understand how and what I felt after the accident?
- What specific parts of my experience merit compensation in return?
- How would an insurance company put a dollar value on my experience?
- Can I negotiate with an insurance company once they make an offer that includes an award for pain and suffering?
First, let’s begin by focusing on the legal definition of pain and suffering. Defined broadly, this is the physical and emotional stresses and discomfort that you feel after an accident. Recognizing pain and suffering is the recognition that the costs of your injury go well beyond the medical bills that you must pay. While there is also compensation for things such as loss of enjoyment of life and emotional trauma, pain and suffering damages operate from the premise that the life of an accident victim is unpleasant, to say the least.
Your Accident-Related Injuries Can Unfortunately Change Your Life
When you have sustained an injury in an accident, you may be dealing with constant medical appointments. Your injuries may require one or more surgeries to repair. Each one of these medical procedures involves preparation, discomfort, and rehabilitation after the surgery. All the while, you will be in physical discomfort. Not only do your injuries cause you physical pain, but they will also cause you emotional pain. Depression is often a constant companion of accident victims as they bear the effects of their injuries, and it can last as long as your injury persists.
Pain and Suffering Both Now and in the Future
Pain and suffering is measured both in terms of present and future. By the time that you file your claim, you will have experienced some pain and suffering, but that is far from the end of the story. That may be just the beginning of your difficult experience. If you suffer a lifelong injury such as paralysis or serious organ damage, it is akin to receiving a sentence to an entire lifetime of suffering. The responsible party for your accident must pay for this too.
Any accident damage award compensates you not only for what you lost but also for the experience that you had and are having. It is not a stretch to say that an accident either seriously takes away from your life or ruins it in the short and long term. In a sense, the amount it has taken away from your life and the discomfort you have felt is how you pay. The compensation is for the effects of your injury that go beyond financial payments to healthcare professionals and for what you could have earned from your employer had you not suffered injuries.
How Does an Insurance Company Value a Lifetime of Suffering?
Physical, emotional, and mental suffering is difficult to value. Paying you for a lifetime of discomfort and agony is something that will result in very different opinions. The insurance company might dispute the severity of your injuries, claiming that they will not remain with you for life. They will also underestimate your damages by claiming that you are not as hurt as you are, nor are you suffering as much as you claim.
Pain and suffering is not just limited to the physical pain that you feel. Of course, this is a part of your damages award, but it can include many other things. In general, pain and suffering encompasses both your physical pain and emotional discomfort.
Pain and suffering damages include:
- Any depression because of your injury
- Being unable to do things that you enjoy
- Agony or humiliation from the effects of your injury
- Stress and worrying
Pain and Suffering Can Be Minor or Major
Pain and suffering can range in severity. You could have inconveniences after an accident that interfere with your life on a more limited basis. Alternatively, you could be dealing with the effects of your injury for the rest of your life. Some injuries are severe enough that you will never be the same again. Pain and suffering damages compensate you for that. After all, had it not been for someone else’s negligence, you would not be suffering the effects of an accident. If another driver’s speeding or illegal turn left you permanently injured, they should pay for every aspect of that injury.
Everything that we have discussed to this point involves calculations that can be highly subjective. After all, how can an insurance adjuster pretend to know what you are feeling when the stress and discomfort of your injuries have kept you from getting a good night’s sleep for months? You certainly cannot expect someone to put themselves in your shoes and experience a day in your life. They certainly would not when it means that their insurance company will need to write a large check.
Your Medical File Is a Very Important Piece of Evidence
The first items that the insurance company will look at are your treatment notes from the doctor. Still, you and your attorney should assemble a more robust claim file beyond just the treatment notes. You have an entire story to tell about how much your pain and suffering has impacted your life.
One way to help your cause is to seek psychological or psychiatric help in the wake of your injury. Doing so will give you even more documentation of your condition and how it has affected you. It is one thing to say that you have horrible anxiety and depression when you submit a claim. It is another thing to back that statement up with treatment notes from a mental health professional that documents what you are saying.
Even a Formula Can Lead to Subjectivity
You may think that it is good news that the insurance company tries to apply a formula to your claim, but that is not always the case. The main method that an insurance company uses to calculate pain and suffering is the multiplier method. While the explanation we will give sounds simple, it really is not.
The basis for the multiplier is usually your medical costs. The insurance company will choose a number and multiply it by your special damages (usually medical costs). This calculation will become the basis for your pain and suffering. In most cases, the amount of the multiplier will be between 1.5 and 5.
For more serious injuries, the calculation will use higher multipliers, reflecting that your pain and suffering will last longer and will be more intense. For example, if you require multiple surgeries for your injuries and will experience lasting harm, the multiplier could move upwards. When combined with high medical bills, this will result in a considerable pain and suffering award.
Less serious injuries will lead to a lower multiplier for obvious reasons. While you may have suffered greatly in the short-term, your pain and suffering was less intense, even though it certainly did not feel like that at the time. However, in the eyes of the insurance company, this does not merit the same amount of money as a serious or catastrophic injury.
You and the Insurance Company May Be Far Apart Concerning Pain and Suffering
While you might think that the use of the multiplier makes things simpler and more objective, this is not how it works in reality. In many cases, you and the insurance company will have differences of opinion about the multiplier to use. The insurance company is going to try to minimize your injuries. Even if you have had surgeries and a tremendous amount of angst and discomfort, they will try to underestimate your experience to save them money. At the same time, you are fighting for fair legal compensation.
Pain and suffering valuation is one of the reasons why you would need an attorney to represent you in your truck accident case. If you were to try to handle your case on your own, you might not even know how to apply a fair multiplier to your case. If the insurance company makes a low offer, you need someone who has the experience necessary to write a demand letter that persuasively outlines your position.
At the end of the day, it is one thing to ask the insurance company to take your word for it but another thing to come with a thoroughly documented claim that makes it more difficult for them to lowball you with any credibility. Preparing such a claim is how a truck accident lawyer could help. Your attorney could help you document and explain your position by sending a demand letter to the insurance company.