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What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

Posted by Inna Gorin | Jul 27, 2017

When you are injured, some damages are relatively straightforward to compute. If your car was damaged, for example, you will get a bill which you can forward to whoever hit it.

If you need the services of a doctor or are forced to miss work, those are also amounts based on specific numbers you can calculate.

Pain and Suffering Damages in California

However, as anyone who has ever been injured in an accident knows, the immediate, calculable damage is not where it ends.

Some damages are not relatively so easy to put into numbers. These are called “non-economic damages” – or, more commonly, pain and suffering.

Most people have heard of this term but don't know it can be an essential factor in a personal injury case or how it's calculated for an injury-related insurance claim or lawsuit.

Pain and suffering damages can cover emotional and mental distress caused by accidents or other closely related factors.

It's a form of monetary compensation intended to compensate a victim for the pain and suffering they endured due to an injury caused by another individual's negligent actions.

This is unique from actual damages. It's not typically easy to calculate because it's not based on specific economic losses, such as hospital expenses or lost wages.

However, pain and suffering damages are included in potential recovery because they are caused by accident and part of a victim's suffering.

These types of damages are decided on a case-by-case basis from the specific facts of the case and the amount of damages generally awarded in similar circumstances.

Pain and suffering are legally categorized as non-economic damages. For more information, call a Los Angeles personal injury attorney at our law firm to discuss the specific details of your case and potential legal options.

What Are Non-Economic Damages Based On?

California law attempts to arrive at a monetary number representing an amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for the pain and suffering you have endured.

The key to non-economic damages is to remember that, even though they're not easily quantifiable, they are actual damages suffered due to the injury.

It may be easy to put a dollar value on six months of work lost because of a bad injury. It's not nearly as easy to put a value on months of grueling and painful rehabilitation or sleepless nights because you are worried that you will lose your job due to an injury.

But these injuries are real, and it's the job of a judge or jury to attach a dollar value to that amount. And it's the job of a personal injury attorney to make sure it's clear to the court how significant the losses are.

If your case is settled without going to court, your personal injury lawyer will calculate a dollar amount. The insurance company or lawyer for the individual who caused your injury will calculate their dollar amount. Both sides will then negotiate on a dollar amount that a court would likely award you if the case proceeded to trial.

Common examples of conditions and issues that can entitle you to damages for pain and suffering include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Stress
  • PTSD
  • Inability to engage in activities
  • Missing out on family events
  • Loss of intimacy with a spouse
  • Loss of self-esteem

It's also important to remember what non-economic damages are not. They aren't punitive damages – damages paid to punish the defendant for bad behavior that does not represent an actual loss. It's also important to remember that the injury has to be genuine – it can't be speculative.

The emotional anguish you suffer from having your leg broken is real.  Contact our Los Angeles personal injury law firm if you need additional information.

How are Non-Economic Damages Calculated?

The extent and specific nature of your injuries are significant in calculating damages. For example, if you sustain a minor whiplash injury, you will typically receive little compensation.

If you sustain a catastrophic injury with long-lasting effects or permanent disfigurement, you would typically recover a much higher amount of compensation.

The length of your recovery will also be a significant factor in the number of damages you will receive. There's no strict formula for determining pain and suffering, but the amount of any medical bills are generally a good place to start.

Based on those medical bills, a judge or jury will use their experience to determine how “painful” the injury was.

For example, an injury that resulted in a dislocated shoulder followed by six months of weekly physical therapy might result in a reasonably low award. In contrast, an injury that resulted in permanent scarring and multiple painful surgeries might result in a much higher one.

On top of that, things like the length of the recuperation period will play into the calculation. In the end, most California pain and suffering awards average between 1 and 5 times the amount of the actual medical bills.

What Kinds of Accidents Can Result in Non-Economic Damages?

Virtually any type of accident that can result in physical injury has the potential to entitle victims to damages for pain and suffering. Some of the more common kinds of accidents for which we can obtain significant non-economic damages for our clients include the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Train accidents
  • Bus accidents
  • Electrical accidents
  • Slip & Fall accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Government tort claims

Trying to Establish Pain and Suffering Damages Without an Attorney is a Mistake

Pain and suffering damages are available in many cases. Paying these damages is part of the defendant's responsibility to restore you to the position you were in before injured.

If you have been hurt in an accident, you may be tempted to try and establish your non-economic damages on your own.

It is important to remember that insurance company adjusters are trained to minimize their payout. Without the experience of a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer, you run the risk of accepting a settlement that you are significantly under-compensated for the pain and suffering you have experienced.

When someone else's negligence has injured you, hire an attorney who understands that your experience doesn't start and end with your medical bills.

Injury Justice Law Firm attorneys specialize in personal injury cases. They can make sure you are compensated for your entire injury, not simply the most accessible parts to attach a number.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 310-734-7974. Serving the greater Los Angeles area.

About the Author

Inna Gorin

Inna Gorin, the founding Partner of Injury Justice Law Firm modeled the Firm after her ideals and principles of what skilled, aggressive and tenacious representation of individual clients should embody. Ms. Gorin's mission is to level the playing field, and provide her clients with the same level...


If you have been injured in an accident, our experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorneys will protect your legal rights and help you recover compensation for your injuries. We are available 24/7 for your risk free initial consultation in Beverly Hills, Encino, Glendale, Hermosa Beach, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Marina Del Rey, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Santa Monica, San Fernando Valley, Valencia and Ventura County areas.