If you are involved in a car accident or another type of personal injury case, Massachusetts law permits you to recover some amount for pain and suffering related to your injuries.
Pain and suffering is a concept that does not have a true definition. One person’s pain could completely debilitate him, but another person could experience the same pain and still continue to function. Because pain and suffering is a subjective concept—one that is based on personal feelings or opinions—it can be extremely difficult to put a dollar value on it.
Valuing Pain and Suffering Damages
Pain and suffering damages are considered a type of general damage or non-economic damage. This means that there is no set formula or corresponding bill that goes along with this claim. A medical expense, on the other hand, is considered an economic damage because there is a set amount due for this expense. You can point to a particular bill and explain that you incurred this expense because of your injury. Pain and suffering damages are not nearly as easy to calculate or quantify.
Some insurance companies and attorneys will start with the general rule that your pain and suffering damages are roughly three times what your medical expenses have been. That number is often adjusted based on your type of injury, any long-term effects that your injury may have, and how the injury has affected your daily life. Figuring pain and suffering is very individualized. Your personal injury attorney can help you through this process.
Showing Pain and Suffering Damages in Court
There is a general presumption that an injury is going to be painful, so judges and juries usually understand the concept behind pain and suffering damages. Serious injuries that involve an extensive healing period or surgery are more likely to involve awards of pain and suffering damages. In a personal injury case, you may need to present evidence of the following to request pain and suffering damages.
- Medical records and bills
- Prescription records
- Photographs of injuries
- Documentation regarding lost time from work
- Testimony from family and friends to describe the effects of the injury that they have witnessed
Your testimony is going to be the most valuable resource available in a request for pain and suffering damages. Only you have experienced the pain associated with your injury, so telling your story is extremely important.
Pain and Suffering Limitations in Massachusetts
In most cases, a claim for pain and suffering is paired with property damage claims or claims for medical expenses. In fact, Massachusetts specifically requires that motor vehicle accident medical damages must be over $2,000 for you to have a pain and suffering claim. This is to prevent large pain and suffering requests for minor car accidents or other vehicle-related injuries.
There are situations, however, where a pain and suffering award might be appropriate even if you do not have large hospital bills. If your personal injury case involves any of the following, you may be able to bypass the medical expense requirement.
- Loss of a body member (in whole or in part)
- Permanent or serious disfigurement (in whole or in part)
- Loss of sight or hearing
Massachusetts does not have a cap on pain and suffering damages for personal injury cases like some states. There is a cap of $500,000 for medical malpractice claims, however.
The pain and suffering damages in your personal injury case are going to vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. Talk to a personal injury lawyer for more information about whether requesting pain and suffering damages is the right option for you and your case.