Does “pain and suffering” include emotional distress?

When “pain and suffering” are recoverable in a personal injury case, it generally includes both physical pain and the accompanying emotional suffering. However, when the term “emotional distress” is used, it refers to emotional trauma absent the physical injury. This can also be recovered in a lawsuit, but it is harder to establish. However, a Pittsburgh car accident lawyer can help.

What is “pain and suffering”?

Legally, “pain and suffering” are non-economic losses related to personal injury. In liability-based states like Pennsylvania, if you are injured, you can sue for pain and suffering, and it could include:

  • Past and future physical and emotional suffering – Not only the physical pain and mental suffering that you have already endured, but also the directly related stress, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, and physical discomfort that you are likely to experience in the future, whether short-term or permanently
  • Disfigurement – Scars and other permanent signs of damage caused by the accident or resulting surgery
  • Impairment of life activities – Inability to enjoy the same things as before the accident– from hobbies to companionship and family relationships.

Even though these are injuries that are difficult to see and difficult to assess, they are viewed as credible because they are caused by physical injuries, which are easy to see.

Emotional distress apart from “pain and suffering”

A plaintiff can also suffer what is known as “emotional distress,” which is separate from emotional suffering related to a physical injury—and it is much less common.

Emotional distress can be either intentionally or negligently inflicted, and the requirements to prove each one is different.

  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress requires evidence that you were near the accident caused by the defendant, that a close loved one was injured, and that you have experienced emotional suffering due to personally witnessing (by sight or sound) the accident.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress requires showing that the defendant acted intentionally and recklessly, that it was extreme and outrageous, that you personally witnessed it, and that the defendant’s extreme conduct caused you severe emotional distress.

Traditionally, emotional distress cases have required a physical manifestation of symptoms, such as headaches or insomnia. However, modern courts are inconsistent on whether they find this necessary. It is always best to speak with a lawyer who understands the requirements.

Proving emotional suffering

Emotional suffering is always going to be more difficult to prove than visible physical injury.

Some of the ways to establish emotional suffering or distress include:

  • Bills for therapy or other treatment related to the suffering
  • A journal documenting your mood throughout the experience
  • Personal testimony
  • Testimony of family and friends who have witnessed any changes you have gone through

Your attorney will determine what the most advantageous evidence will be based on– and help you secure and present it.

How emotional suffering damages are calculated

No two injuries are the same, and similar accidents could have vastly different effects on different people.

Factors that can influence the settlement or jury award include:

  • Amount of medical bills or bills for other treatment related to the suffering
  • Type and severity of the injury sustained
  • Prognosis, including the time that your emotional distress or pain and suffering are expected to continue
  • Your age
  • Impact on your daily life

Insurance companies may start with a calculation based on generic computer programs that undervalue your claim. However, an effective lawyer will advocate for a personalized adjustment based on how your physical and emotional suffering has affected you personally.

Retain an attorney to maximize recovery

A successful pain and suffering or emotional distress claim cannot restore your old life, but it can help you overcome some of the obstacles that stand in the way of rebuilding your life.

Personal injury lawsuits must comply with complex rules like statutes of limitations, notice requirements, and court procedures. However, a consultation with a Pittsburgh car accident attorney can put your mind at ease.

Contact us today

We are committed to “Doing Good by Doing Right, “ and that means fighting for every penny that your case is worth. We will also make sure your story is told, and your injuries are not minimized. Call today to schedule a free consultation. You never owe a legal fee unless we recover money on your behalf.