How Juries Determine Pain and Suffering Compensation?

Key Points:

  • In Georgia, damages must compensate injured parties for all the physical and mental effects an accident causes for victims and their families.
  • Juries determine the monetary value of pain and suffering based on what seems fair under the individual circumstances of each case.
  • Any fair settlement offer from the insurance company should fully compensate the victim for not only medical costs but pain and suffering, which includes emotional trauma, mental anguish, anxiety, and diminished quality of life caused by the accident.
  • Because pain and suffering can be difficult to measure, hiring an attorney who knows how to gather and present strong evidence greatly increases your chances of receiving a fair settlement and, if necessary, winning a pain and suffering award at trial.

“Pain and suffering” isn’t just a phrase used by lawyers—it’s a real, and often substantial, component of your personal injury compensation claim. Specifically, pain and suffering compensation is a type of damages awarded to victims who have suffered injuries because of an accident. But unlike vehicle repair costs, medical expenses, or other monetary losses, pain and suffering damages are noneconomic in nature (i.e., not easily established by records or dollar value).

That means if you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you may be entitled to damages for your physical pain and discomfort, which includes not only what you’ve already suffered but what you’re likely to suffer in the future. In addition, you can recover compensation for your current and future mental pain and suffering, which may include emotional trauma, mental anguish, anxiety, and diminished quality of life.

If you’ve experienced severe, life-changing injuries, you may be entitled to a large amount of pain and suffering compensation. As with any compensation claim, however, it’s not enough to just experience physical or emotional harm. You or your attorney will need to offer proof of pain and suffering to recover all the compensation you deserve.

The Purpose of Pain and Suffering Compensation

Under Georgia law, you’re entitled to be made whole through compensatory damages if you’ve been injured in a car accident because of someone else’s negligence. In other words, the negligent driver (or, typically, their insurance company) must compensate you for all harm and losses caused by the accident.

The law recognizes that simply paying your bills and out-of-pocket expenses doesn’t make you whole because an accident can affect your life in other ways. In Georgia, damages must compensate injured parties for all the physical and mental effects an accident causes for the victim and their family. Even though it’s hard to put a price on physical pain and emotional trauma, juries determine the monetary value of pain and suffering based on what seems fair under the individual circumstances of each case.

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Expenses That Should Be Calculated into a Settlement

Before accepting any settlement offer from the insurance company, you or your attorney must first determine the amount of current and future damages you’ve suffered. If you accept an offer before knowing the full extent of your damages, you will likely receive far less than you’re entitled to under the law

A settlement offer should include compensation for all economic and noneconomic losses caused by the accident. Economic costs, such as medical bills, physical therapy expenses, lost wages, ambulance costs, and auto body shop bills, are often easier to negotiate in a settlement because they can be proven by submitting records.

Noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, must also be included to recover full compensation, but these damages can be harder to measure and prove to the insurance company. Once proven, however, the insurance carrier is required to exhaust the liability policy to settle your damages claim.

How a Lawyer Will Prove Pain and Suffering

When determining how much compensation to offer, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will investigate the accident and look at the victim’s medical records and other bills to calculate how much it owes. Typically, the carrier will only offer what is easily proven by records, which means reimbursement for bills and out-of-pocket expenses.

Often, it takes an experienced attorney to negotiate a settlement that includes pain and suffering because noneconomic damages can be difficult to assess. The insurance adjuster knows that a jury will not award damages unless they can be proven at trial, so it’s essential to collect evidence showing the extent of the victim’s pain and suffering.

Evidence that shows the severity of the accident, such as vehicle damage, can be helpful, but you’ll need more to prove that your injuries caused actual pain and suffering. Medical bills that document your injuries are a key component to proving your claim because a jury can safely assume that a person with extensive medical bills has suffered. In addition, medical records can show a specific type of injury that is associated with pain and suffering, such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, or paralysis.

Other kinds of evidence can also be used to prove pain and suffering, including photographs, journal entries, expert testimony, and notes from doctors, counselors, or physical therapists. Evidence showing the victim can no longer work, take care of their children, or participate in activities they once enjoyed can support their claim.

Once the insurance carrier sees strong evidence that would support a pain and suffering claim at trial, it is more likely to agree to a settlement demand that fully compensates the victim. Hiring an attorney who knows how to gather and present the right evidence greatly increases your chances of receiving a fair settlement and, if necessary, winning a pain and suffering award at trial.

How Pain and Suffering Compensation is Challenged in the Settlement Process

As a general rule, insurance companies look for any reason to deny or reduce the compensation they must pay for an accident, so they typically try to get away with offering payment for only economic losses. Because insurance adjusters cannot clearly identify the amount of pain and suffering using bills/records, the carrier is more likely to fight against paying this type of compensation.

For example, if a victim has been injured and seeks compensation for their medical bills and pain and suffering, the insurance company can look at the bills to find the exact amount it owes for economic damages. However, damages for pain and suffering can be hard to pinpoint because so much depends on the circumstances and individual victim. Thus, there’s room for the carrier to argue that the victim’s pain and suffering was minimal, or even nonexistent, despite medical records showing injury.

To recover full pain and suffering compensation, your attorney must work hard to gather documentation to build a strong claim, which means analyzing the severity of your injury and its effect on your life. With the proper supporting documentation, the insurance company is more likely to pay your settlement demand rather than risk a much larger verdict if the case goes to trial.

Facts and Myths about Pain and Suffering Compensation

Can pain and suffering cost the at-fault driver well above their insurance policy limit?

Yes, potentially. Pain and suffering damages are covered by most auto insurance liability policies, and the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier is required to pay for all damages caused by the accident up to the policy limit. When injuries are severe or life-changing, however, the amount of pain and suffering may be well above the policy limit. If the carrier exhausts the policy to pay the claim but the damages exceed the limit, the victim can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover the remaining amount.

If the case goes to trial, a jury is free to award any amount it sees fit for pain and suffering, which may be far more than the coverage provided under the policy. The at-fault driver is then obligated to pay the difference between the liability policy and the verdict (unless there are extenuating circumstances that allow the insured to claim the carrier mishandled the claim and must, therefore, pay more than its limit). For example, if there’s a million-dollar verdict and a $500,000 policy limit, the insurance company is obligated to pay $500,000—the defendant must pay the rest out of their personal assets unless there’s evidence the carrier handled the claim in bad faith.

Can you recover for pain and suffering without showing any evidence?

If medical records show that your injuries were severe, the insurance company may offer compensation that includes pain and suffering even if you don’t submit supporting evidence. However, carriers typically don’t include pain and suffering in a settlement offer unless your attorney submits strong documentation. And if it does, the amount will likely be far less than you’re entitled to recover.

Are pain and suffering costs calculated by multiplying the medical bills by three?

There is no set formula for calculating pain and suffering compensation. If the case goes to trial, it’s up to the jury to decide how much to award based on the evidence. When negotiating a settlement or presenting a case at trial, attorneys may use different arguments that can (but does not often) include asking for three to five times the amount of medical bills. Other arguments can include using a per diem formula of “x” dollars per day for a temporary or permanent condition; asking for a fixed amount based on a real-world comparison; or asking for a range of damages. An experienced attorney can determine what argument best suits the facts and circumstances of your case.

Can pain and suffering compensation get you a million-dollar settlement?

If the case involved severe injuries and a high insurance policy limit, it could. In Georgia, the minimum limits of liability insurance for drivers include $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury. However, many drivers opt for policies with higher limits or have additional coverage through umbrella policies. If the driver’s insurance policy doesn’t fully cover your damages, you may have to file a lawsuit to recover more.

The Millar Law Firm Can Help

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, make sure you seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer. When deciding who to hire, remember that our firm has been helping local victims since 1993, and our attorneys know how to negotiate with insurance companies to recover full pain and suffering compensation.

Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

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