It’s customary, when filing a personal injury lawsuit, to seek damages for “pain and suffering.” In an earlier blog, we identified the different types of injuries that can constitute pain and suffering. In this blog, we look at how the court determines the amount of damages for pain and suffering, as well as the factors juries often consider when evaluating a claim for pain and suffering.
HOW DOES A JURY DETERMINE THE VALUE OF A CLAIM FOR PAIN AND SUFFERING?
In a personal injury lawsuit, damages (monetary compensation) are generally referred to as “economic” or “non-economic” damages. Economic damages include out-of-pocket losses that can be easily ascertained, such as lost wages or unreimbursed medical expenses. Non-economic damages are those that are less tangible, including loss of companionship/consortium and loss of enjoyment of life. Damages for pain and suffering are also considered to be a form of non-economic damages.
As with other forms of non-economic damages, because there are no objective criteria by which a jury can come to a specific dollar amount, most courts instruct jurors to use common sense and good judgment when assessing a pain and suffering award. There are, however, many jurisdictions, including New Jersey, that have established precedent for applying a “multiplier” to determine the amount of compensation for pain and suffering. With this approach, the court determines the amount of economic losses and multiplies that dollar amount by some specific factor (frequently three, but potentially larger) to come up with the dollar amount for pain and suffering. For example, if lost wages and unreimbursed medical expenses total $25,000, the court may instruct the jury to multiply that amount by three and grant $75,000 in damages for pain and suffering.
THE FACTORS THE JURY WILL OFTEN CONSIDER
Because of the discretion given to jurors when awarding damages for pain and suffering, there are a wide range of factors that can affect the jury’s decision:
- Is the injured party a favorable or credible witness?
- Does the claim for pain and suffering make sense to the jurors?
- Is there medical evidence to substantiate the claim?
- Does the injured party have a criminal record?
CONTACT MALLON & TRANGER
We offer a free initial consultation to workers in New Jersey who have been hurt on the job. To set up a meeting, contact us online or call us at 732-702-0333 (toll free at ) for an appointment. We have offices in Freehold and Point Pleasant.