When you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, you have a right to be compensated for many things:
- Property damage to your car
- Medical bills incurred
- Lost wages
- Pain and mental anguish
While the first three of this list are pretty straightforward, the last two (commonly referred to as “pain and suffering”) don't have an easily fixed value. That’s mainly because, unlike things like medical bills, they are not incurred in the form of a set number of dollars. Pain and suffering is inherently abstract and subjective. The pain and suffering for one person is different from just about anyone else.
The ultimate question you have is, “How do you put a value on MY pain and suffering?” The answer to that question really lies with the jury. The good news is that an experienced Virginia personal injury will be able to give you the best estimation. Juries everywhere are different, from state to state and even city to city.
When it comes down to it, we have to assume your case will go to a jury trial. There are a few factors worth considering when trying to determine the value of your pain and suffering in a Virginia claim.
Would a Virginia Jury Understand the Pain and Suffering Claim?
Let’s say, for instance, you were rear-ended at a high rate of speed. Your car suffered significant property damage, you were taken to the ER where you were diagnosed with injury (fractures, whiplash, tendon tears, for example), and you required either surgery, extensive rehabilitation, and/or both. And you have doctors willing to support your case - another factor in evaluating the value of your claim.
In cases like these, the argument for pain and suffering will be one that a jury can easily understand. There’s a mechanism of injury and medical treatment that are tangible and seemingly logical. This makes it more like that the valuation of pain and suffering will be greater.
However, in cases where there is low property damage, or you didn’t see doctors until days or weeks after the accident (always make sure you go and see a doctor soon after an accident), or you weren’t diagnosed with anything but received substantial treatment, it’s hard for a jury to understand. Unfortunately, many jurors will have a hard time believing what they don’t see.
Will You Be Able to Properly Describe the Pain and Suffering?
If your case were to go to trial, you get only the brief moments on the stand to articulate your pain and suffering. While it may seem that that’s a lot of time, in reality, it’s only a blip on the radar of your case. That means witnesses that can powerfully articulate their injuries with simplicity often receive better results from the jury. It also means that witnesses who are not as strong at communicating their pain and suffering properly will make a jury trial in Virginia difficult.
While it may seem unfair, human judgment is a central part of trials. Just like interviewing for a job, manners of speech, dress, and general presentation matter. Some people are better than others in these areas. When we evaluate a case, your “likability” and “credibility” are vital in the determination of the potential value of your pain and suffering.
At BenGlassLaw, we take the time to coach our clients to best communicate with a jury. It is important for our clients to be able to tell their story coherently so that they will receive the best chance to get a fair recovery for their pain and suffering.
What Are Your Other Damages?
If your accident is one in which you incurred significant medical bills for treatment, property damage to your vehicle, and/or lost wages, juries are more likely to award greater amounts of pain and suffering. If you think about logically, it makes sense. High dollar medical treatment such as surgery usually requires more substantial recovery which means more pain and suffering.
The “It” Factors?
Whenever we look at a case, we will look for “it” factors in the client's story. This means that we are looking for an unusually compelling part of your story. For example, let’s say your hand was broken in your accident, and now you have limited movement; plus, before the accident, you were a pianist. A jury could see how your injury clearly caused pain and suffering.
There’s no exclusive list of “it” factors. They are aspects about your injuries and your life that weave together for a jury to truly take a second look and think, “Wow, this person dealt with significant pain and suffering due to their accident and/or injury.”
The fact is that there’s no mathematical formula to answer this questions. Trial work is more an art than a science. But we can make two guarantees: 1) communication is key, and 2) we will put in the work to communicate your claim.