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Calculating Pain and Suffering in Personal Injury Cases

The category of damages called “pain and suffering” can sometimes be the eye-catching part of a personal injury trial’s outcome. For example, a recent case awarded a plaintiff $10 million for pain and suffering in connection with a severe injury suffered by a teenager on a homeowner association’s badly maintained swing set. Someone who has been injured and is considering filing a lawsuit should take a moment to understand what pain and suffering damages are and what their limitations rae.

The categories of damages in Nevada civil litigation

Civil trial damages are divided into three categories:
  1. Economic (or compensatory) damages can be thought of as the consequences of the defendant’s wrong actions that can be reduced to a firm dollar figure without resorting to abstraction. Past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, and property damage are examples of economic damages. The scope of economic damages can itself be a controversy at trial. For example, a person’s future earnings are contingent on many factors, like the person’s age, years to retirement, and career path.
  2. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in cases where the defendant has acted especially badly. The aim of punitive damages is to make an example out of the defendant to deter others from behaving in the same way.
  3. Noneconomic damages tend to be difficult or impossible to quantify using commonly accepted formulas. Examples of noneconomic damages include humiliation, anxiety, grief, and loss of enjoyment. Pain and suffering are just two closely related variations of noneconomic damages.
The types of damages that a plaintiff can seek in a case depend on the nature of the claim, the parties involved in the case, and other factors. Economic damages tend to be available in almost every case that isn’t simply barred on other grounds. But noneconomic damages can be subject to caps or even prohibited altogether. Such restrictions are usually contained in statutes that are designed to limit the liability risk of certain activities. For example, Nevada law limits noneconomic damages in professional negligence cases (e.g., medical malpractice) to $350,000. NRS 41A.035.

How are pain and suffering damages calculated?

A plaintiff’s claim for pain and suffering, or other forms of noneconomic damages, must be fair and reasonable and may not exceed any applicable statutory cap. Like all damages, pain and suffering also must be proven with evidence. The greater a showing the plaintiff can make of the tribulations suffered due to the defendant’s wrongful actions, the greater the potential damages award. Unlike a plaintiff’s medical bills, pain and suffering isn’t so much a matter of math as one of reasoned argument. Proving pain and suffering requires a careful collection of hard evidence, like photos and medical records. Documentation of the plaintiff’s medical condition, such as x-rays, can be especially persuasive. Oral testimony can also be vitally important. The plaintiff’s family members, friends, occupational therapists, and others can help to paint a picture of how the plaintiff’s life has changed after the incident.

GGRM is an experienced personal injury law firm in Las Vegas

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have been injured in an accident and would like to speak to an attorney at no cost, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.