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What qualifies as “pain and suffering?”

You may have heard the phrase “pain and suffering,” but what does it really mean? While the specifics of what qualifies for pain and suffering vary by state, we’re breaking down this legal term and how it could apply to your Oregon personal injury case.

What is pain and suffering?

“Pain and suffering,” in legal terms, describes both the physical and emotional injuries a victim suffers due to an accident. Pain and suffering isn’t always easy to quantify in a lawsuit. That doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Actually, pain and suffering often is the most significant part of damages suffered by an accident victim. It’s important that full and fair compensation reflects their entire experience — including less quantifiable pain and emotional stress they endure.

Damages, or “the sum of money the law imposes for a breach of some duty or violation of some right,” can be awarded to victims who experience pain and suffering. This is in addition to other types of damages that seek to compensate the victim for:

  • Medical bills and future medical care
  • Loss of earnings and future earnings or earning impairment
  • Physical impairment or disablement
  • Pecuniary losses, i.e. costs to replace services you normally do but could not

What are examples of pain and suffering?

Pain and suffering generally can be divided into two distinct parts, physical injury and emotional discomfort.  These include all the pain, suffering, disruption of normal lifestyle, emotional distress, etc., that come along with physical injury.  Some examples include:

Physical Pain and Suffering Examples

  • Bone fractures
  • Chronic pain
  • Concussions
  • Dislocated joints
  • Nerve damage
  • Organ damage
  • Paralysis
  • Sprained muscles and ligaments

Emotional Pain and Suffering Examples

  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Restricted quality of life

Nearly always, settlements or judgments include both physical and emotional damages. For example, in a car accident case, pain and suffering could include the physical pain and suffering of a leg injury plus the emotional pain and suffering associated with the restricted mobility that injury causes.

The value of pain and suffering is unique to each victim. The variables of each accident add complexity when attempting to calculate or predict a settlement. For help learning the possible value of your case, including the emotional and physical distress you’ve experienced, check out our “What is my case worth?” page. For a more detailed calculation, contact Swanson Lathen Prestwich, P.C. today. We can discuss the details of your accident to calculate a more specific estimate for your case.

distraught man experiences pain and suffering after an accident

Calculating Pain and Suffering: How to Accurately Determine Appropriate Compensation

Websites, and even some lawyers, try to lure accident victims into thinking a personal injury claim’s value can be calculated by using some sort of mathematical formula.  Common examples include the “multiplier method,” the “pier diem method” or other similar formulas.  If only it were that easy.  While it is true that cases generally have similar values depending on the type of accident and the type of case, determining the appropriate amount of pain and suffering is far more complex.

That value will depend on many factors.  For example, in an auto accident case we look at:

What type of accident occurred?

Was the at-fault driver under the influence of intoxicants or on a cell phone?

How much property damage is there to each vehicle?

What were the relevant speeds of each vehicle?

Did the at-fault driver have any history of bad driving?

Was there any gross negligence or recklessness involved?

Was it a rear-end, T-bone or head-on collision?

What types of injuries did the victim sustain?

Was the victim transported by ambulance to the hospital?

Was there any sort of radiology taken?

Did the victim sustain any fractures, ligament or tendon tears, or anything that required surgical intervention? Under general anesthesia?

Was types of follow-up treatment, i.e. physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, etc.?

How long did the treatment last?  How many providers?

What are the total medical bills? Any future care anticipated?  If so, at what cost?

What lost wages, if any?  Any future impairment of earning capacity?

Any permanent physical or mental injury?

What is the person’s life expectancy?

Did the victim have any pre-existing conditions? Was there any treatment for these conditions in the immediate five (5) years pre-dating the accident?

What is the character, persona, etc., of the victim?

These are just some of the factors we consider to evaluate a case and determine its average value.  We then compare that to decades of experience in handling similar claims, together with data from jury verdicts, arbitration awards and settlements in both Oregon and Washington.

All we do is represent injured parties and their families.  All we do is seek maximum compensation for them.  We have thousands and thousands of cases worth of experience in doing so.

What does the state of Oregon say about pain and suffering?

Every state makes rules about which specific conditions qualify for pain and suffering compensation. In Oregon, pain and suffering falls under the heading Noneconomic Damages. 

The state of Oregon recognizes the following forms of noneconomic damages:

  • Emotional distress
  • Humiliation
  • Inconvenience and interference with normal and usual activities apart from gainful employment
  • Injury to reputation
  • Loss of care, comfort, companionship, and society
  • Loss of consortium
  • Mental suffering
  • Pain

Were you in an accident in Oregon that led to any of these? You likely are entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering.

Limitations on Oregon’s Pain and Suffering Payouts

The state of Oregon puts several parameters on noneconomic damages awards.

To receive noneconomic damages in Oregon, victims must not be 50 percent or more at fault in the accident. Regardless of who’s at fault, the victim will not receive noneconomic damages if they were under the influence at the time of the accident or driving without insurance except in certain circumstances. The following are several other rules that apply in Oregon cases.

Statute of Limitations

For personal injury cases, you must settle or file your lawsuit within two (2) years of the accident in question to receive noneconomic damages. For cases involving property damage only, you must settle or file within six (6) years. However, if your claim is against any governmental entity, Oregon requires you to give the potential defendant a “tort claim notice” within 180 days of the incident. Always contact a reputable personal injury attorney in Portland or Salem immediately; they will ensure you don’t miss the time limit for filing a suit.

Wrongful Death Damage Cap

Under current Oregon state law, noneconomic damages in wrongful death suits cannot exceed $500,000.

woman with a cast shakes a personal injury lawyer's hand after pain and suffering case

How will my personal injury attorney help me determine what pain and suffering I’ve experienced?

From filing to the final fight, hiring a focused, pain and suffering lawyer is your best shot at fair compensation in your personal injury case.

Personal injury attorneys know how much compensation to ask for when filing your suit. They draw from their own experience — and experience with other attorneys, insurance companies, and judges — to understand the true value of your case. Their experience and expertise can help you receive the maximum reward possible.  The factors above are some of the major contributors to this determination.

If the case doesn’t settle and you must go to court, you’ll need someone fighting to the end to get you every dollar you deserve.  And as is often the case, if you don’t have a knowledgeable lawyer, the insurance company knows you don’t pose a threat of filing your own lawsuit.  As such, they can low ball you on any offer they make.

Suing for Pain and Suffering: How much compensation can I recover for noneconomic damages?

See the section above to learn how to estimate your damages. You also learn what your case is worth on our website.

However, the best way to learn how much compensation you can expect to receive for noneconomic damages is to call Swanson Lathen Prestwich, P.C. One of our experienced personal injury lawyers will be happy to give you a legal consultation that’s completely free and confidential.

Settle for nothing less than what you deserve: contact The Personal Injury Law Firm of Swanson Lathen Prestwich, P.C.

If you’ve experienced pain and suffering from an accident, contact Swanson Lathen Prestwich, P.C. law for a free consultation.