How to Prove Pain and Suffering

Posted on February 27, 2024

Sudden unexpected injuries are painful and traumatic, especially if they are the direct result of someone else’s careless, reckless, or wrongful actions. Fortunately, civil courts allow injury victims to seek compensation for the losses they experience after an injury caused by another individual or business.

A personal injury claim or a lawsuit against the at-fault party is the way an injury victim seeks justice, accountability, and compensation for their losses. Economic and non-economic losses after an injury are known as “damages” in personal injury claims.

While it’s easy to understand how an experienced personal injury attorney looks at medical bills, receipts, and income-tax forms to calculate financial losses in a claim for economic damages, how does an injury victim prove their pain and suffering to claim compensation for non-economic damages?

What are Non-Economic Damages?

Claiming non-economic damages in a personal injury claim substantially increases the amount of compensation a victim can recover in their case. The most common non-economic damages claimed by injury victims is “pain and suffering” referring to the amount of pain the injury causes them and will likely cause them into the future until they reach their expected maximum medical improvement.  Besides pain and suffering, non-economic damages may include other intangible consequences of the injury including the following:

  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium (a full physical and emotional relationship)
  • Disfigurement
  • Limb loss
  • PTSD
  • Grief and anguish
  • Fear of imminent death

A personal injury attorney carefully calculates these damages to maximize the amount of compensation a victim can recover within the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance coverage; for example, car insurance after a car accident or property insurance after a slip-and-fall accident.

Establishing Evidence of Pain and Suffering

A Salt Lake City personal injury lawyer may use an injury victim’s extensive medical bills and invoices as proof of their pain and suffering after an injury. For example, proof of surgeries, painful medical procedures, and intensive physical therapy. They may also use evidence such as the following:

  • Prescription pain medications
  • Medical expert testimony of the physical pain associated with the type of injury
  • Testimony from family about what the injury victim can no longer do since their injury
  • Pain journal records
  • Evidence of pain clinic attendance
  • Testimony from a mental health expert about the impacts of pain on emotional wellbeing.

Injury victims need to be upfront with their medical providers about the level of pain they’re experiencing after an injury. Doing so not only ensures that they receive treatment for their pain but also makes the pain a part of the medical record so it provides critical evidence in an injury claim.

How to Calculate Pain and Suffering

While it may seem challenging to assign a monetary amount to intangible damages like pain and suffering, personal injury attorneys use common methods to arrive at compelling figures for their clients.  One method is the multiplier method.

This method uses the amount of the victim’s medical expenses and multiplies it by a number between one and six depending on the victim’s pain level. A second method is to use medical expert testimony to assign a dollar amount for the pain per day (Per Diem method) and multiply it by the number of days the medical expert predicts the pain will continue until the victim reaches their maximum medical improvement.

In some cases, the attorney will try both methods and choose the result that maximizes the amount of compensation available for the claim. While some state courts prefer one method over the other, other states, like Utah, take an individualized approach to calculating a monetary amount for pain and suffering depending on the evidence and testimony in each case.