The term pain and suffering is synonymous with car accidents. If you have ever been involved in a motor vehicle collision, you understand the severity in which your life might be turned upside-down. From your initial visit to the emergency room or urgent care to your 25th treatment at your favorite chiropractor or physical therapist, your life after a crash revolves heavily around getting treatment to feel better. Medical expenses are a major factor in settling a personal injury claim, but they are often not the most important piece of the puzzle. Pain and suffering – despite its ambiguity – is frequently the more essential portion of your insurance claim. What exactly are pain and suffering damages? Well, Washington law provides some – but not much – guidance.
In all its glory, RCW 4.56.250 provides some very basic insight. Specifically, the Washington legislature outlined subsection (1)(b), which states as follows:
Noneconomic damages means subjective, nonmonetary losses, including, but not limited to pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, disability or disfigurement incurred by the injured party, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation and humiliation, and destruction of the parent-child relationship.
When preparing a personal injury claim for negotiation or trial, this law gives some specifics that provide a framework for monetary relief but leaves a lot to interpretation. For example, inconvenience seems self-explanatory but may encompass a broad spectrum of ideas. Perhaps it includes the inconvenience in having to appear for 50-medical appointments and getting stuck in traffic 45 minutes to an hour every time. Inconvenience might mean the inability for you to mow your law quickly forcing you to take 15-minute breaks in-between. Inconvenience might even be interpreted to include having to ask your employer to provide you accommodations that slow down your workday. Ultimately, it is up to the individual attorney to offer creative ideas for the jury to value these non-economic damages.
Pain and suffering is a legal term-of-art that is thrown around often after an accident. In a general sense, these are non-economic, non-quantifiable, often subjective damages incurred by the injured party. There is no bill associated with pain, but it can be described by the claimant. On the stand, an injured driver can testify how they would wake up in the morning with the sun rising in the sky. Instead of thinking about the wonderful options available that day, the early riser is hoping that her back will hold out the entire day, so she does not have to call in sick. Her attorney will provide the outline for her answer helping to guide her in a story about how her life after the collision was devastating. Not just to her pocketbook, but to the relationship with her new husband, to her position as a new employee whose boss regrets her hiring, and to her mind, which is constantly full of doubts about her future.
Noneconomic, pain and suffering damages are not the easiest to establish. They are certainly more of an art than a science. Working with an experienced attorney is akin to working with a great painter. The lawyer guides their client like a brush on canvas helping to tell a vivid story to create an emotional image for the jurors. Emotions win cases, and pain and suffering damages are the crux of emotion in a personal injury claim. At the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, PS, our team of litigators understands the importance of the pain and suffering damages. Feel free to call for a free case evaluation.