January 2, 2021 | Personal Injury
Damages arising from a personal injury are categorized as economic or non-economic damages. Most injured people have both forms of damages. A major component of non-economic damages is called “pain and suffering.” Here are some facts about non-economic damages and how pain and suffering are compensated after a car accident or explosion.
What are Non-Economic Damages?
Non-economic damages occur as a direct result of the accident. But they do not have a dollar amount tied to them. Some examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain: Injured people can receive compensation for the pain that diminishes their activities or quality of life.
- Suffering: Compensation can include the mental anguish an injured person experiences.
- Inconvenience: An injured person can claim compensation when injuries limit the person’s activities.
- Loss of consortium: Compensation can include loss of normal marital relations.
Juries and insurance companies have difficulty calculating non-economic damages since you have no bill or check stub to measure them.
Receiving Non-Economic Damages in Kentucky
Kentucky allows compensation for pain and suffering that result from personal injuries. This means that in medical malpractice, car accident, or defective product cases, you can claim damages for pain and suffering or other non-economic injuries.
But Kentucky law includes an important limitation for auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, or other accidents where auto insurance is involved.
Thresholds for Non-Economic Damages in Car Accidents
In all cases except for vehicle accidents, compensation can always include non-economic injuries. But Kentucky car accident cases do not automatically include non-economic damages. This is because Kentucky uses a no-fault auto insurance system.
Kentucky protects insurance companies by limiting claimants’ ability to receive damages for non-economic injuries.
To claim damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, or inconvenience the person must suffer at least one of the following:
- At least $1,000 in medical expenses
- Permanent disfigurement
- Bone fracture
- Loss of a body part
- Permanent injury, to a reasonable medical probability
- Permanent loss of body function
If these conditions are not met, your auto accident compensation cannot include pain and suffering or other non-economic injures. This is true whether you negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Factors Considered in Pain and Suffering Calculations
Kentucky has no set formula for calculating pain and suffering or other non-economic damages. But when you file a claim with your insurance company or go to trial, you will need a way to translate your non-economic injuries into a dollar value. Typically, you will need an economist or other expert to offer an opinion about the value of your pain and suffering.
Some of the factors that will play into the opinion will include:
- Types of activities lost and ways your quality of life has diminished.
Non-lawyers can become lost in the distinction between economic injuries and non-economic injuries. Some examples of the distinctions include:
The cost of pain medication, anti-inflammatories, and therapy to reduce pain are economic losses. Insomnia, inability to shower or do laundry, and depression caused by the pain are non-economic losses.
Expenses for psychological counseling, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medication are economic losses. Anxiety attacks, inability to drive due to PTSD, and mental anguish caused by suffering are non-economic losses.
Although every case is different, increases in the duration, severity, and the number and importance of lost activities will result in more serious damages.
Quantifying Pain and Suffering
Economists and accountants use many different theories to turn these factors into a number. Two of these theories are:
An expert calculates a multiplier based on the severity of your injuries. The insurance company or jury then applies the multiplier to the economic damages to arrive at an overall number. For example, if you have $12,000 in economic damages and the expert calculates a multiplier of 1.5, your total damages, including pain and suffering, will be 1.5 x $12,000 or $18,000.
“Per day” or “Per Diem” theory
An expert calculates the value of your daily non-economic losses based on the severity of your pain, suffering, loss of activity, and reduction in quality of life. The insurance company or jury then multiplies the daily losses by the number of days you suffered. For example, if an expert calculates your non-economic losses at $110 per day and you suffered these losses for 43 days, your non-economic damages would be 43 x $110 or $4,730.
Either of these theories can provide a road map for juries and insurance companies to qualify your pain and suffering.
Making a Case for Pain and Suffering
Juries and insurance companies are often skeptical of pain and suffering because they cannot see them. Some ways to improve your case for pain and suffering include:
- Documentation: Do not suffer in silence. Talk to doctors and therapists about your mental and physical pain so they can document it in your medical records.
- Treatment: Seek treatment for your pain and suffering. Your treatment provider can provide an opinion about your non-economic damages.
- Legal advice: Discuss your pain and suffering with your lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you quantify and claim your non-economic damages.
You may find it difficult to get compensation for pain and suffering. But claiming pain and suffering can fully compensate you for your loss in activity and quality of life.