doctor evaluating a patient's back

Many Jurors Don’t Understand Pain & Suffering

The vast majority of people who have never been through the civil court process probably think that some random number is chosen out of the air, but they are also probably aware that people get to claim pain and suffering as a harm when they file a lawsuit for negligence. But for some people it’s something that shouldn’t be allowed. When we go into a trial, the first phase is to pick a jury. When we do that, one of the primary things we need to talk to people about is how they feel about people receiving money for pain and suffering as part of their job as jurors. It is simply not uncommon for us to have prospective jurors say that they would never give a person money for pain and suffering. They take this position because they see the idea of giving money for pain as a gift, a double recovery or simply improper because, well, s**t happens in life and you gotta get over it.

The Negligent Person is Obligated to Compensate for Pain Caused

But what many people don’t understand is that we’re not talking about giving someone a windfall here. When someone injures another person because they are being careless/negligent, the person who caused the injury has an obligation to compensate the person they injured for the harm caused. It’s why we are all required by law to carry insurance.

Healing from a Car Accident can be a Long & Painful Process

One of the harms that the law recognizes is a category called non-economic damages. That category is then further broken down to other categories which include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of quality of life and inconvenience being the most common. Pain and suffering is usually one of the primary sub-categories because, well, it hurts to get into a car collision. What I see as a common progression is the days following the collision are just plain nasty. I regularly have clients describe their entire bodies hurting so bad that even minor movements would cause pain bad enough to make one cry. Then in the days/weeks following people usually start to feel incrementally better, but it’s just not unusual for this to be an extended process. It’s not unusual for people to begin with conservative care such as physical therapy, chiropractic and/or massage therapies (if you think medical massage is just some fluffy, feel-good treatment, you haven’t ever had it, or if you have, it wasn’t done properly). These treatments hurt as part of the healing process. Many times they work, but it takes months to recover, and that recovery is painful. Other times this conservative care doesn’t work and doctors have to try procedures such as injection of steroids (much like getting a shot, but much more painful) or rhizotomies (where a needle is inserted into the damaged nerve and that nerve is obliterated – though it grows back in about six months). In the worst case scenario, people have to undergo surgery to repair (hopefully) damage which was caused to their bodies by the collision. In the best case scenario, any one of these procedures can alleviate that pain and suffering people endure. In the worst case scenario, none of the procedures completely gets rid of all of the pain and the injured person has to live with it for the rest of their lives. And we haven’t even started talking about the different qualities of pain which can often be at 10/10 (using a pain scale common to the medical industry) initially following the injury. From there it is a matter of how each person recovers, pain wise, but the whole healing process is entitled to pain and suffering. Why is that?

Pain & Suffering is Often one of the Biggest Harms

Well, first, let’s be clear that pain and suffering damages/harms/losses isn’t a matter of a person getting an award or a windfall. Pain is a very real component of the healing process and suffering is the mental/emotional toll that enduring such pain requires. When you consider that each person has to endure that pain, it takes time to heal. If a person in this country were required to work for free, there would be various levels of outrage, but a person who has to endure long term, or even short term, pain is really working for the person that injured them and they should be compensated for it. It’s why pain and suffering is often one of the biggest harms associated with being injured by another person’s lapse in attention.

We Understand Your Pain

Unfortunately, too many insurers don’t understand what a person has gone through and as a result don’t consider the true depth of the harm when concluding what value to associate with it. Beyond that, it’s almost a guarantee to that too many potential jurors don’t understand it as a damage, and if they do, they don’t know how to put a value on it. We do understand and that’s why you should talk to us about what you have been through when you need someone to represent you.