For those who have ever filed a personal injury claim, the uncertainty of how your pain and suffering damages are calculated can be overwhelming. Anxiety over whether an award will be sufficiently compensated for the emotional, mental and psychological trauma from your injuries can be as traumatizing as the car accident itself.
If receiving fair compensation for your injuries is a cause of concern, Johnstone & Gabhart is here to help. With 50 years of combined experience in West Virginia personal injury law, our firm promises to provide you with the personal attention you need—and the expertise you desire— as we help you understand pain and suffering damages to receive the maximum amount of compensation you deserve.
Calculating Pain and Suffering
It can be hard to put a value on something like pain and suffering. While determining economic damages, such as lost wages or medical expenses, is fairly straightforward, it can be challenging to figure out how much you are owed for injuries such as loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, or mental distress.
There are two ways that non-economic damages may be calculated. First, if your attorney is crafting a demand letter, he or she will use their knowledge of West Virginia law and experience handling personal injury cases to set a number of pain and suffering damages. For example, if a similar case recently resulted in a $30,000 award for pain and suffering, that information could be used to develop the final demand for damages.
Second, if the case goes to trial, the judge or jury will decide the amount of pain and suffering damages. There are three primary factors that will impact this determination: (1) the severity of the physical injury; (2) the degree of the victim’s suffering; and (3) the victim’s age. Considering these elements, a young victim who was catastrophically injured and will have chronic pain for life will typically receive a higher award for pain and suffering than an older person with minor injuries and minimal pain.
Courts do not use a specific equation to determine non-economic damages. Instead, the amount is left to the judge or jury’s discretion. In some cases, the court may use what is known as a multiplier to calculate pain and suffering damages; this involves multiplying the monetary value of the economic damages in the case by a number between 1.5 and 5.
Are There Award “Caps” in a Personal Injury Claim?
West Virginia does not have damage caps for most personal injury cases. For car accidents, slip and falls, bus wrecks, and the majority of claims involving negligence, there is no limit on the amount of non-economic damages that a person can be awarded. This means that if a person suffers a debilitating injury in a car crash, he or she may be able to recover a substantial amount for pain and suffering without worrying about a limit imposed by the state.
However, there is one type of personal injury case where non-economic damages are limited: medical malpractice claims. Under current law, there is a $250,000 limit on non-economic damages for this type of case. This amount increases to $500,000 if the medical malpractice led to wrongful death or permanent injury.
In addition, West Virginia limits punitive damages in all civil cases to a maximum of $500,000. Punitive damages are a type of damages that are meant to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. They are generally only available in cases where the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, and so they rarely come into play in personal injury cases.
Other Types of Noneconomic Damages in West Virginia
Regardless of who the claim is being filed against, if you have suffered any noneconomic injuries from a personal injury accident, such as:
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Mental or emotional pain or anguish;
- Loss of consortium (companionship);
- Loss of enjoyment of life; or
- Injury to reputation
Then you may be eligible to recover noneconomic damages in a personal injury claim.
West Virginia is a modified comparative negligence state, which means a claimant can take home compensation for pain and suffering even if he or she was partially responsible for a crash. A plaintiff will only be barred from recovery if he or she was 50% or greater at fault for an accident. The courts will reduce the plaintiff’s compensation amount according to his or her percentage of fault; for example, a plaintiff who is 20% responsible for an accident would take home $80,000 of a $100,000 total award.
Contact an West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer Today
In the past, we’ve seen insurance companies try to lowball pain and suffering awards. This can feel grossly unfair and unjust considering that these companies have no way of knowing just how much your injury has affected your life other than what they see on a medical bill.
Fortunately, because we work so closely with our clients on each case, we know that sometimes, the most traumatizing aspects of a personal injury are those without a price tag or medical bill attached. But because these cannot be readily quantifiable, the uncertainty around receiving a fair pain and suffering award can cause more anxiety or trauma to you in an already stressful situation.
If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident of any kind, then you are more than entitled to receive compensation not only for physical personal injuries, but for the emotional pain and suffering you have had to endure as well. Contact an experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer today to discuss your case and file a claim to recover the compensation you deserve.