Pain and Suffering: What It Is It, Am I Eligible to Be Compensated For It, and How Do I Prove It?

When someone is hurt in an accident in a Florida city like Tampa, Lakeland or Winter Haven due to someone else’s negligence law allows the injured party to be compensated for his or her injuries in order to make him or her “whole” again. This compensation is usually fought for by a personal injury attorney.

The remedy that is used under the law to “fix” the injured party is the allocation of money damages. Damages generally come in two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages include compensation for medical bills and lost wages. These economic damages are easy to calculate once a claim is made because the amount awarded is based on quantifiable harms: how much money did it cost to treat for the injuries, how many days were missed from work in order to treat, and the potential for any future treatment or loss of income. Non-economic damages, such as “pain and suffering,” are not so cut and dry.

What is pain and suffering in legal terms?

In general, “pain and suffering” injuries are those subjective, intangible harms that result from the negligent act of another. Florida law recognizes two broad categories of “pain and suffering” claims: mental and physical.

Mental pain and suffering involves feelings of fear, embarrassment, depression, and anger that stem from the accident. This can include fear about getting behind the wheel again, humiliation that results from relying on others to take care of us, or irritability and anger from being in pain all the time. Physical pain and suffering includes the physical trauma endured at the time of accident and throughout the healing process along with the inability to perform tasks in the same manner as one was prior to the accident due to the injuries sustained.

Am I eligible for pain and suffering damages?

The easy answer to this question is a qualified “maybe”. Under Florida Statutes § 627.737, “pain and suffering” is only available in ordinary motor vehicle accident cases where there is:

  1. “Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;”
  2. “Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement;”
  3. “Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement;” or,
  4. Death

This is the threshold requirement to be eligible for compensation for pain and suffering under Florida law. Proof of any one of the four criteria must be met prior to even considering a claim for any pain and suffering. This proof can take the form of testimony from the treating doctor or medical records stating that the injury is permanent in nature, caused scarring or disfigurement, or death. Once the threshold has been met, evidence of pain and suffering will also have to be submitted.

How do I prove pain and suffering?

While pain and suffering damages are more difficult to quantify due to the subjective nature of injury, there are many ways that an injured party can prove their pain. Below is a list of some of the most common:

  1. Prescription receipts for pain medication
  2. Medical bills/records/reports for any psychological treatment after the accident
  3. Provable missed vacations due to treatment or inability to travel
  4. Photographs of visible injuries documenting the progression of healing
  5. Testimony from family, friends, and coworkers comparing quality of life before the accident and post-accident

The reason it is so complicated to put a dollar sign on pain and suffering is because of the human element involved: we as humans are all unique and we each deal with pain and loss is differing ways. No two cases and no two people are alike.

If you intend to pursue a claim for pain and suffering damages, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can guide you through the intricacies in filing and proving your claim.

Steve was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As was the practice for new doctors his father worked day and night during his medical residency at Charity Hospital there. Steve comes from a long line of doctors. His father, his grandfather, his great grandfather, even two uncles were all specialists and/or surgeons in their chosen medical specialties, including internal medicine specialist, obstetrics / gynecology, neurosurgery and general practice / surgery. His great-great grandfather was the Surgeon General of Ohio during the Civil War.