Car accident victims can typically receive compensation for their medical bills to treat their injuries, as well as lost income and property damage. They can also receive damages for pain and suffering. But what constitutes “pain and suffering,” and how much will you receive?
For many accident victims, compensation for pain and suffering makes up the bulk of their settlement. We encourage all accident victims to spend some time considering whether to request pain and suffering as part of a settlement. The Cheyenne car accident lawyers at Freeburg Law, LLC take a closer look at these issues below.
Defining Pain and Suffering
Although Wyoming courts use the phrase “pain and suffering” all the time, few have spelled out just what it means. Generally, however, the term refers to the pain and other bodily suffering a person endures after physical injuries. This can include:
- Physical pain
Most physical injuries cause substantial pain. Even if you are given pain medication, it often doesn’t completely relieve the pain. Instead, many people feel flare-ups as the medication wears off, general fatigue or lethargy, and discomfort.
Pain and suffering can also include mental suffering or emotional distress caused by physical injuries. A common situation is someone who slips into depression, irritability, or anxiety because they have broken their arm or suffered a back injury. Being unable to move or walk without pain can cause severe mental distress.
Pain and suffering damages are “general” damages in Wyoming. Unlike medical bills or car repairs, general damages do not come with a market rate or specific dollar amount. You cannot buy wellness or a pain-free body like you can buy medical care or a new fender.
The Wyoming Supreme Court has also recognized other types of general damages, such as loss of enjoyment of life and disfigurement. We can seek money for those as well.
Calculating the Value of Your Pain and Suffering
Now that you know what “pain and suffering” refers to, you probably are curious how much you can receive following a car accident. The bad news is that there is no easy answer to that question.
If your case goes to trial, then the jury will use its discretion to award an amount of compensation for pain and suffering. As our Supreme Court has said, there is no formula a jury uses. Instead, they must use their “common sense” to award fair damages to make up for the pain and suffering a motorist experiences.
However, most cases don’t go to trial, which means a jury will never consider the issue. Instead, your Wyoming car accident lawyer will try to negotiate a fair amount for pain and suffering with the insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver.
Truth be told, insurance adjusters tend to use formulas. They have settled countless personal injury cases, and they enter that information in a database. For example, they probably settled a car accident case with a victim who suffered a traumatic brain injury and a broken arm. They know how much that victim accepted for pain and suffering. The adjuster will probably try to get you to accept a similar amount.
Your attorney should also use their experience to determine a fair amount for pain and suffering. The insurance adjuster will probably offer a low amount, so we will need to negotiate.
Documenting Your Pain and Suffering
A car accident victim can strengthen their claim by documenting their pain and suffering. How do you do this? It’s not easy, but there are a few steps:
- Keep all prescription medication bottles. You might be taking painkillers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, or sleeping pills. Keep the bottles so we can show that a doctor has prescribed medication to help you deal with these symptoms.
- Write down how you are feeling every day. Try to pinpoint where you are feeling pain. Describe its intensity and whether it is constant or goes in and out. Also, record how it impacts your sleep. Remember to avoid exaggeration, since that will cast doubt on your entries.
- Note changes in your relationships. You might not be able to play with your children or grandchildren or enjoy walks with your spouse. These losses can qualify as general damages.
- Tell your lawyer if you are seeing a therapist or psychiatrist to help deal with the emotional side of your accident. This medical professional might testify on your behalf about your emotional difficulties, like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.
This documentation can bolster a claim for pain and suffering. Your attorney might even refer to some of this evidence while negotiating with the at-fault driver’s insurer.
Requesting Pain and Suffering after a Car Accident
There are two primary ways to obtain compensation for pain and suffering. The first is to file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver. Wyoming requires that motorists have liability insurance. And this insurance can cover the cost of medical care and lost wages, along with pain and suffering. You can include pain and suffering compensation in your demand letter, and your lawyer will negotiate as much compensation as possible.
The second option is to sue the driver personally. You might need to do this if the driver was uninsured, or if their insurance only covers a part of your losses. If you prevail, you can get a court judgment. A lawyer can discuss how to collect on a judgment, such as wage garnishment.
There are risks to going to court. You might lose and not receive any compensation. However, by negotiating a settlement, you might not receive as much pain and suffering compensation as you want. Talk over these considerations with your lawyer.
Reach Out to Freeburg Law Today
Our legal team at Freeburg Law is well aware of how to argue our clients deserve meaningful compensation for their pain and suffering. We can also help our clients fully document it so they present strong claims for compensation. Let us put our knowledge to work for you. To find out more, schedule a consultation with our office.