If someone else has caused you to be injured, there's a chance it was intentional or at least negligent.
Either way, people who have been involved in something like a car accident typically suffer beyond just their physical injury, whether it's a broken bone, internal organ damage, or long-term medical illness.
You may also be experiencing emotional pain and suffering that could last months or years into your future.
And with serious injuries, any additional surgeries or necessary medical procedures can be expected to add to your pain and suffering.
Your pain and suffering may also be due to your inability to pursue activities that you once enjoyed.
For example, if you suffer a spinal cord injury, your days as a surfer might be in the past.
And if you made a living doing a physically demanding job, your days of employment may be over as well.
Now you're probably wondering if you can be awarded pain and suffering without hiring a lawyer.
While it's true that it might be possible to pursue a claim without lawyers' help, it generally isn't recommended.
With that said, in the article below, we will discuss how to file a personal injury claim for pain and suffering, and if you should use a lawyer.
Table of Contents
What Is Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering is any mental distress you can seek damages for in your car accident claim.
Pain and suffering damages are based on the injury you sustained, the seriousness of the pain you suffered, and how the injury affects your quality of life.
The majority of states consider pain and suffering damages a part of noneconomic damages, also known as general damages, which are intangible losses that are hard to assign dollar amounts to.
Economic damages, like medical expenses and lost wages, are easy to assign dollar amounts to, but noneconomic damages are highly subjective.
Defining Noneconomic Damages for Financial Compensation
To prove pain and suffering resulting from an injury due to another person's negligence, you have to understand what constitutes pain and suffering under your state law.
Pain and suffering is typically defined as a form of noneconomic damage that can include:
- Disruptions to your usual way of life
- Debilitating physical impairments
- Emotional and mental distress
- Physical deformities or disfigurements
When using a lawyer, you should share your complete medical records with them that support your claim.
Other damages and their long-term effects can also constitute pain and suffering, depending on what led to your initial injuries.
Life-Changing Injuries That Qualify as Noneconomic Losses
Specific physical injuries can be described as catastrophic when they occur due to an injury caused by another person's negligent actions.
Some of the injuries catastrophic injuries include:
- A Spinal cord injury that leads to full or partial paralysis
- Amputation of a limb
- Severe brain damage
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Loss of the ability to communicate effectively
- Severe burns
- Injuries that result in complete loss of eyesight
- Forced infertility or the loss of reproductive organs
Accidents like these typically result in a forced change to your lifestyle and your employment.
Again, be sure to share your medical records with your personal injury lawyer.
Your medical records will also help detail the event that led to your injuries and how much time it would take to recover.
Whether to Proceed With or Without an Attorney
Depending on your accident and your injuries, obtaining legal representation will likely save you time and money.
Before deciding to do it on your own, consider the following factors to determine whether you should hire an attorney to represent you.
The Seriousness of Your Injuries
It's not uncommon for an insurance company to offer a settlement to cover your property damages and medical expenses in minor car accidents.
But always beware of an injury that don't show up right away after minor accidents. You don't want to settle too soon and get stuck paying for damages caused by your accident.
If you were involved in a severe accident, you need to, at the very least, speak with a personal injury attorney about your case.
The more serious your damages are, the more likely you will receive an underestimated settlement offer by the insurance company.
Sufficiency of Evidence
To support your claim, you will need evidence like witness testimony and supporting documents to make a successful claim.
If you don't have hard evidence of your pain and suffering, the insurance company will assume that they don't exist.
If you're having a hard time obtaining evidence for your case, you should consider getting help from a lawyer.
Proof of the Other Driver's Fault
If you are making a claim against the other driver or his or her insurance company, you have to be sure that the other driver was at fault for the accident.
If it's obvious that the other driver caused the accident, you might be able to proceed without an attorney.
But it's hardly ever straightforward when it comes to determining fault.
So if there's a dispute about who is at fault, or if the other driver makes a counter-claim, you need the help of an experienced attorney to help you win your case.
Don't proceed with your claim against the other driver or his or her insurance company until you are sure that the other driver was at fault.
Calculating Your Pain and Suffering
To be awarded pain and suffering damages, you need to be able to calculate pain and suffering.
You have to state a specific dollar amount for them.
This can prove to be difficult without a lawyer because there's no set equation used to calculate pain and suffering.
Many lawyers use the "multiplier" method to calculate their client's pain and suffering damages.
If you can't come up with a dollar amount for your pain and suffering damages, you need to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Your personal injury lawyers will have the knowledge and experience to calculate a maximized amount of damages.
Making a Pain and Suffering Claim on Your Own
If you want to make a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer, you must start by sending the insurance company a demand letter, summarizing your claim and damages.
Discuss your pain and suffering damages in your demand letter, and support them by including relevant documents and evidence.
To prove any type of personal injury claim, you must first have evidence that supports it.
You'll have to obtain medical records and a police report yourself if you choose to file without a lawyer.
The following documents, if available, should also be included with your demand letter:
- Medical bills and records
- Doctor's note
- Police report
- Witness statements
- Photos of the accident
Statement on Your Pain and Suffering
You will also need to state how you put a value on your pain and suffering damages.
This is typically done by explaining how your pain and suffering has impacted your daily activities.
When discussing your pain and suffering with the insurance companies, consider the following:
- Severity of your injury
- The nature of any scarring or disfigurement
- Recovery time needed
- Potential for ongoing consequences
- Amount claimed in special damages
- Socio-economic factors
- Your state's damages cap
Get Professional Legal Help With Your Pain and Suffering Claim
When deciding whether or not to pursue pain and suffering damages with or without a lawyer, you should carefully consider the above factors.
Many people opt to pursue damages on their own because they think they will save attorney fees.
However, an experienced personal injury lawyer will maximize the number of damages you can recover and make sure nothing is done to decrease your claim's value.