When a person suffers serious injuries in a Florida accident, the pain and the suffering is real. Pain and suffering may be physical suffering, like with a knee injury or back injury, or it’s emotional suffering, like when we lose a loved one or suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that flips our world upside down.
To maximize the value of a person’s pain and suffering, we have to make it real to the insurance company and possibly to a jury. The way we do that is through story. Just as any story can made real through effective writing or video production, your story can be made real through the art of storytelling. Ultimately, the value of your pain and suffering will depend upon how well you tell your story to the people who are writing the check. In this article, we’re going to be talking more about valuing pain and suffering in Florida accident and injury cases.
The Value of Pain and Suffering in Florida Accident Cases
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, semi-truck accident, slip and fall, trip and fall, or any other type of accident where you suffered serious injuries due to another person’s negligence or carelessness, you are entitled to compensation. There are many different things you may be entitled to money for, and we typically call these things “damages.” When we’re talking about damages, we’re talking about the costs associated with your injuries. Below are some of the more common types of damages we see in Orlando, Florida accident cases and in accident cases around the Southeast.
Medical bills typically make up a big percentage of the economic damages in an accident case. Here, we ask the question: What types of medical treatment did you have spend money on because of the careless or negligent person that caused your injuries? The medical bills and costs of physical therapy and chiropractic treatment are all damages that you are legally entitled to.
Lost Wages (Missed Past and Future Work)
You are also legally entitled to lost past and future wages. How much work did you have to miss because of the careless person? How much work will you have to miss because of the negligent person? These are important questions when calculating your damages in any negligence case because lost wages are also damages you’re legally entitled to. It's not uncommon for a person to miss several weeks or months of work because of injuries sustained in an accident.
Pain and Suffering
Here, we’re trying to figure out what you had to suffer through as a result of the negligent person’s actions. Did you experience pain? How bad was it, and how long did it last? Will you continue to experience pain as a result of your injuries? Although there is no pain and suffering calculator, you can justify a large sum of money for your pain and suffering if you can show what you went through as a result of another person’s negligence. We’ll talk more about this point later in this article.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Whereas pain and suffering is focused on the pain and the experience of your injuries, loss of enjoyment of life looks into the future and asks: What did the negligent person take from you? Did you have to give up some of your favorite activities because of your injuries? What could you do before the accident that you’ll never be able to do again? Loss of enjoyment of life will have a unique value for each person, depending on the injuries and the complications you experience.
The Policy Behind Awarding a Person Damages After an Accident
The law seeks to put you back in the position you were in before the accident and before the negligent person caused your injuries. That’s why you are legally entitled to the types of damages we talked about above (and more). However, in many cases, money will not put a person back in together, just like super glue can't make a broken egg what it was before it broke. The scars will always be there. Similarly, many accidents permanently change a person’s life. Their body, their mind, their career, or their lives are forever altered. Money can't fix that.
However, money is the tool we have. Money is how the civil system punishes a person or business for being negligent or careless. Even though money won’t fix a person’s debilitating injuries, it’s the “stick” our civil system offers as punishment. The criminal side takes away a person’s rights and freedoms, and the civil side takes their money. Both the criminal law and civil law have a part to play in encouraging people to avoid hurting others.
Economic Damages Are Easier to Calculate than Non-Economic Damages
Damages like medical bills and lost wages are easy to calculate because there is an objective number. Add up all the numbers, and you have a good figure for a person’s economic damages. However, is a person really made whole when a negligent person only has to pay for their medical bills and missed work? Obviously not. Who is going to pay for the pain that person experienced during the accident? Who is going to pay for all the suffering that person experienced while he or she was getting surgery and recovering? Without taking into account a person’s pain and suffering, they cannot be made whole in any way.
That brings us to the difficult question: How do we assign a number value to a person’s pain and suffering? How about their loss of enjoyment of life? How much money does a person get for never being able to hold their child again? These are difficult questions. Below, we will shed some light on how we calculate pain and suffering.
There is No Pain and Suffering Calculator. How do We Calculate Pain and Suffering in Florida?
As we’ve talked about, there is no magical pain and suffering calculator. There is no special rule for how to value pain and suffering, and there is no equation that we can plug into and get an answer. Calculating pain and suffering involves, ironically, a painful process of weighing various factors and estimating values. Let’s walk through some of the factors we look at when determining the value of a person’s pain and suffering.
What Are Your Economic Damages?
If you have high economic damages, a jury is more likely to award you high non-economic damages. This goes back to the concept of “anchoring,” which is generally spoken about in the context of sales. When we bring up a number during a sales interaction, people get stuck or anchored to that number. The first number they hear is like a magnet that keeps them from going too far in any direction.
Let’s say we’re selling a house, and we offer to sell it for $100,000. The prospect is going to be anchored to that number during the negotiation. That number will be like a magnet throughout negotiations, pulling the prospect to it. Ultimately, the prospect will probably begin strategizing on how to get the house for $85,000.
Now, let’s say we instead start at $120,000. Well, the same principle applies. The prospect will begin mentally strategizing, based on that number. Theoretically then, the prospect will believe that $90,000 or $95,000 is a great deal for that house, even though it’s the same exact house. The key point is this: The first number the prospect hears is likely to work as an anchor.
In the same way, a jury that hears about $100,000 in medical bills and missed wages will probably feel more comfortable awarding $100,000 in non-economic damages than a jury that hears about $20,000 in economic damages. It’s basic sales psychology.
When we’re determining economic damages, we would look at some of the following questions:
- Did you have property damages? Was your car was totaled?
- Do you have huge medical bills? Did you need surgery?
- Will you need months of rehabilitation? Will you need physical therapy?
- Did you miss months of work?
- Will you be able to go back to work?
If your car was totaled, you needed surgery, and you’ll never be able to return to work again, you would have serious economic damages. Thus, the jury would be more likely to award serious non-economic damages. When the economic damages are huge, the pain and suffering award is easy to justify.
Can You Properly Describe the Pain and Suffering You Have Endured?
If the insurance company refuses to settle, your case will proceed to trial. When you’re at trial, you may be asked to testify, and you will only have a short time to tell your story. Trials are a serious process, and your testimony will likely only make up a fraction of the whole trial. As a result, you will need to be able to artfully describe what happened to you and what you’ve gone through to help the jury understand what your life has been like since the accident. Plaintiffs who can tell their story in a compelling way tend to get the best results, just like a movie that tells a story well tends to sell a lot of tickets.
Pain and suffering is subjective. As we’ve talked about, there is no pain and suffering calculator. This fact often leads to unfair results. However, this is how the legal system works. Therefore, when we’re evaluating the value of your pain and suffering, we must consider whether the jury will like you and whether they will be able to see that you’re telling the truth.
We take the time to help our clients to be the best communicators they can be. We can help you to understand how to concisely and artfully explain everything you’ve gone through. We can help you tell your story to the world. That way, you will have the best chance of getting a good result.
What Compelling Facts Are on Your Side?
When we’re trying to calculate pain and suffering, we look at everything available to us. Every person has a unique life story, and thus people have unique facts that can help them in their accident case. One example is what we briefly mentioned earlier: How much money would a person take in return for never being able to hold their child again? What if their shoulder is so injured that it can’t support the weight of a kid? What if someone took that away?
When a jury hears a compelling story that they can empathize with, they can ignore the defense’s attempts to minimize what happened to you. The jury can see through BS. They just need to feel like they’re allowed to trust you. Countless billions of dollars have been spent to convince people that lawsuits are horrible. Who do you think spent that money? Who had the billions of dollars to throw around on propaganda about how bad injured people are? That’s right, the insurance companies.
Good storytelling is kryptonite to the insurance companies. The insurance companies know when they’re dealing with something they can’t control. If we can tell your story properly, we may be able to make the insurance company see that it’s a terrible idea to take your case to court. Storytelling is what we do, and we do it well. Let us help you tell your story.