Can You Get Compensation for Mental Anguish in a Personal Injury Case?
While the goal of a criminal case is to ensure justice, the goal of a civil case is to make a victim “whole” again after suffering from the actions of another party. A personal injury case in Birmingham is a type of civil action resulting when one party injures or causes economic harm to another. The injured party can secure compensation for any and all damages resulting from the at-fault party’s actions. However, not all the damages in a personal injury case are easy to measure.
What Is Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case?
The justice system recognizes that the experience of a personal injury and its effects are usually worse for a victim than the economic fallout of such an incident. Therefore, plaintiffs who suffer severe physical injuries and traumatic psychological damage can receive compensation for these experiences. “Pain and suffering” is a somewhat generic term that can apply to several possible factors in a personal injury case, and a plaintiff will typically rely on expert witness testimony to secure pain and suffering compensation.
Imagine a drunk driver hits another driver while speeding through a red light. The struck driver suffers compound fractures in his legs, requiring corrective surgery with steel plates and rods and wheelchair confinement during recovery. The victim spends several years back and forth between doctors for multiple corrective surgeries. Throughout the entire ordeal he struggles with significant physical pain, emotional stress from his temporary disability, lost income from the time he is unable to work, and then even more stress from the pain of physical therapy and recovery. A jury would likely consider this individual entitled to significant pain and suffering compensation for such an ordeal.
Calculating Pain and Suffering Compensation Amounts
How does one translate something abstract and subjective like physical pain into a dollar figure? There is no firm way to do so, so most juries in the United States use basic formulas for calculating pain and suffering damages. Some courts use a per diem system that awards a set amount for each day a victim spends in recovery until he or she reaches maximum medical improvement.
Others use a multiplier system and simply multiply the victim’s medical expenses by a set amount to reflect the severity of his or her injuries. For example, a broken wrist that causes severe pain but has minimal chance of causing long-term damage will likely result in far less pain and suffering compensation than a compound leg fracture that causes long-term or permanent disability.
Compensation for Psychological Trauma
Mental anguish is one of the most difficult types of compensation to determine. Typically, a plaintiff’s attorney will produce counseling and mental health treatment records to prove that a plaintiff experienced some form of psychological distress from a situation in question. The attorney may also coordinate with expert witnesses with backgrounds in mental health. These professionals can help a jury understand the full effects of a plaintiff’s experiences.
The psychological effects of an accident can be worse for victims than their physical injuries. A person who suffered severe injuries in a traumatic accident may not only contend with persistent physical pain, but also experience traumatic flashbacks of the incident or develop psychological conditions like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder that require years of counseling and therapy.
If a victim of a traumatic accident develops a mental health condition after an accident, one of the best methods of proving his or her mental anguish is to keep a consistent log of symptoms, traumatic flashbacks, and mental health appointments. Although some personal injury claims can take quite a long time to reach conclusions, having a detailed record and proof that the victim sought mental health care after his or her accident greatly improves the chances of securing compensation for mental anguish.