After an accident caused by someone else's carelessness, you may lose wages or income because you can't work, and you may have unreimbursed medical expenses. Those damages are easy to determine, though, because they are easily measured. You are also entitled to compensation for physical pain and suffering, a less tangible loss. What exactly is "pain and suffering" and how will the court calculate the total damages for pain and suffering?
The first thing to understand, as we explained in an earlier blog, is that there are two general categories of compensatory damages-economic and non-economic damages. Those losses that are easily measured, such as lost paychecks or medical expenses, are known as economic damages. Those damages that are not readily identifiable, including pain and suffering, are referred to as non-economic damages.
When you have experienced debilitating pain, you can typically seek compensation for the ways it has impacted your life. That may be in the form of physical pain or mental pain/anguish. You can seek damages for pain and suffering that you have already experienced, as well as pain and suffering you expect to experience in the future. Mental pain and suffering can take many different forms, such as anxiety, anger, embarrassment, depression and fear. The courts traditionally consider some amount of mental/emotional pain and suffering as a consequence of any physical injury or loss.
Let's look at an example. Suppose you are in a car accident caused by someone else running a stop sign. You sustain torn ligaments in your left knee and require surgery. After the surgery, while you are healing, you change your gait and develop plantar fasciitis, making it difficult to walk. Because of your physical difficulties, you go out less, but that also makes you depressed. You may be able to recover for the impact the depression has had on your life, as well as any physical injuries caused by the defendant.
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