Many people assume that bringing suit for pain, suffering and/or lost wages is a simple matter but it’s much more complicated than merely accusing another party and collecting an award. Juries must take into account a “reasonable” award; what is just and fair for one person’s pain and suffering may be grossly undervalued for another’s. Each case must be treated as a separate legal challenge; there can be no set amount to compensate for pain and suffering, as everyone has different thresholds of tolerance.
Lost wages, on the other hand, seem to be fairly straightforward. You lost five weeks of work and you’ll be compensated for them, right? Perhaps not. Insurance adjusters are often the first ones to receive medical reports and if there is something amiss, you have no chance to correct it. If it mistakenly says that you missed only three weeks of work, that’s what you’ll be compensated for. It’s very important to instruct all of your physicians to obtain your approval before giving anyone else access to your medical records, particularly when it involves a legal claim. Lost wages are awarded only for work missed, not for possible future earnings.
Pain and suffering damages have always posed a challenge for the legal system. Since neither can be seen or touched, there is no physical evidence other than the word of the plaintiff and the findings of their doctor. The same injury in two different people may have dramatically different effects. A hairline fracture of the ankle requiring a soft cast for two weeks may not bother a receptionist with a desk job. That same injury may cause untold suffering to a elderly diabetic who is already struggling with arthritis and living on his own with nobody to assist him. While the receptionist is back to her normal life after a few weeks, the senior citizen still suffers intense pain just getting out of bed in the morning. These two cases would command two very different awards for the pain and suffering involved in the injuries.
Soft tissue injuries are another common source of pain and suffering. Often, the patient fully recovers with competent treatment and the award is in keeping with his level of discomfort. However, a soft tissue injury in someone that is already disabled or one that requires surgery is much more serious. Juries tend to award more in such cases or in any case that find the effects of the accidents altering a person’s life for a significant period of time.