Understanding Pain and Suffering Damages in California

Pain & Suffering After Personal Injury

“Pain and suffering” is one of those terms you hear all the time but no one ever really defines. Now that you find yourself with an insurance claim on your hands, you might wonder what pain and suffering is, where you’re entitled to it as part of your insurance claim, and whether you can get pain and suffering compensation without a lawyer.

We’re going to walk you through those questions in this article. But here’s what you should know up front: the law will never require you to hire a lawyer. And generally speaking, you can make a claim for personal injury compensation (including pain and injury compensation) without one.

However, when it comes to your legal options, there is often a difference between what you can do and what you should do.

What is Pain and Suffering?

California personal injury law allows accident victims to recover monetary compensation for the damages they’ve suffered because of someone else’s carelessness.

Damages is a legal term referring to all of the injuries, hardships, and losses you’ve experienced as a result of the accident.

Generally speaking, there are two categories of damages: those that are purely economic in nature (e.g. medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost wages, etc.) and those that are emotional or non-economic in nature.

“Pain and suffering” falls within this latter category of damages. It refers to the emotional experience of physical pain and other psychological damages associated with an injury: depression, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), and so on.

While pain and suffering damages aren’t clearly or readily expressed in monetary terms, they nevertheless represent a very real hardship, and you deserve to be compensated for that hardship.

Claiming Pain and Suffering Compensation without a Lawyer

Even though pain and suffering damages aren’t economic in nature, the law allows victims to make a claim for monetary compensation on the basis of pain and suffering.

Proving these damages, however, can be a real challenge — especially when it comes to attaching a price tag to an emotional injury.

Insurance companies tend to oppose pain and suffering claims vigorously. Because there is sometimes room for debate as to how these damages should be valued, the insurance adjustors will see a prime opportunity to reduce their financial exposure by fighting these claims at every turn.

If you aren’t represented by an attorney, you’re at a disadvantage. The insurance company has a lot of experience with pain and suffering damages. Common tactics by the insurance company include:

  • Offering a “lowball” settlement for far less than you deserve, then pressuring you to accept it before the offer expires
  • Using vague or confusing methods for calculating your pain and suffering
  • Denying the pain and suffering part of your claim (or denying your entire claim)
  • Claiming their policyholder was not legally at fault for your pain and suffering
  • Accusing you of exaggerating your injuries, pain, and suffering
  • Arguing that something else caused your physical and/or emotional injuries (especially if you delayed in seeking medical treatment)
  • Implying that hiring a lawyer will keep you from getting more pain and suffering compensation

The insurance company might be in the wrong, but without a lawyer on your side, fighting back can be a real challenge.

Insurance adjustors often adopt a “so sue us” attitude, knowing full well that you aren’t likely to sue if you don’t have a lawyer. But here’s their dirty little secret: generally speaking, the last thing they want is to defend an insurance claim in court.

How a Bakersfield Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help with Your Pain and Suffering Claim

While it may be possible to get pain and suffering compensation without a lawyer, an experienced attorney may be able to make a significant difference in the amount of compensation you receive.

The right lawyer will also make the entire claims process less stressful for you. He or she can handle all claims-related communications on your behalf and steer you away from easy-to-make mistakes.

While insurance companies tend to use one of several established methods for calculating pain and suffering damages, there are two things you should understand about the calculation process:

  • There is no single formula that insurance companies or courts are required to use for calculating pain and suffering damages in California. Different formulas can sometimes produce drastically different dollar amounts.
  • Even once a formula is agreed upon, there is sometimes a great deal of “wiggle room” for the insurance companies to substantially reduce your recovery. An experienced, aggressive Bakersfield personal injury lawyer can fight for a fair valuation of your damages.

For example, one of the most common methods for calculating pain and suffering damages is the multiplier method, in which the cost of your purely economic damages is multiplied by a certain number. The insurance company will try to pick the lowest possible multiplier. But your attorney can argue in favor of a larger multiplier, working to persuade the insurer that the smaller multiplier would not withstand a jury’s scrutiny.

Does It Ever Make Sense to Seek Pain and Suffering Compensation without a Lawyer?

If your case involved extremely minor injuries, with only minimal economic damages, you might not have experienced significant pain and suffering. In these cases, you might be able to get adequate pain and suffering compensation without a lawyer.

However, these situations are the exception. As a general rule, if your injuries were serious enough that they caused you physical pain or emotional suffering, then your claim is likely to benefit from an attorney’s aid.

(Remember that pain and suffering damages are typically awarded in addition to economic damages, increasing the overall value of your claim. The higher the claim’s potential value, the more likely it is to benefit from legal representation.)

At the very least, it is always a good idea to talk with a lawyer before agreeing to any settlement with an insurance company. At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, we invite you to a free and confidential consultation, during which we can learn more about your accident and help you understand your options.

The Law Offices of Mickey Fine Will Fight to Get You the Money You Deserve.

Don’t face the insurance companies on your own. A Bakersfield personal injury lawyer at The Law Offices of Mickey Fine can protect your interests throughout the claims process. We will fight to maximize your financial compensation, including your pain and suffering compensation.

To learn more about your rights and options, please contact our office and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Time limits do apply to personal injury claims in California, so please don’t delay.

Call 661-333-3333 in to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney today, or contact us online right away.

We will never charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first. The initial consultation is absolutely free.