What qualifies as “pain and suffering?”

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If pursuing litigation in the state of California in the event of a motor vehicle accident or other accident resulting in injury, you may seek damages defined in the suit as “pain and suffering.” Pain and suffering can cover far more than immediate physical injuries or loss of property resulting from the incident. Damages can extend to mental and emotional trauma, lost wages due to recovery or diminished capacity, long-term and short-term impact on existing relationships, and lost potential opportunities due to incapacity or irreparably changed life circumstances.

In specific, pain and suffering is considered noneconomic damage, or damages that cannot be assigned a value based on the value of property destroyed. The California Judicial Branch provides an example of California Civil Jury Instructions for making determinations in cases seeking monetary compensation for pain and suffering, and points out that California state law has no fixed standard for compensation amounts in these sorts of cases. Juries are instead expected to use their judgment and consider the individual details of the case to make a determination regarding an appropriate and reasonable amount. A few specific factors the instructions tell jurors to consider are:

  • Mental suffering
  • Physical pain
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Anxiety
  • Physical impairment

A jury will consider each of these factors in your case and make determinations regarding the compensation requested. Juries may at times require evidence of any suffering or losses caused by the factors listed above.

This information is provided for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal counsel or recommendation.

Jeffrey R. Smith

Jeffrey R. Smith

Managing Partner

Robert B. Waldsmith

Robert J. Waldsmith

Partner, 1999

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

Partner, 1978

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