When you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, you can usually pursue an injury claim against the responsible party. You may know that in any negligence case you can recover two types of damages—economic and non-economic. Economic damages are tangible, easily quantifiable losses like medical expenses and lost wages. These things can be proven using documentation like invoices and pay stubs. Conversely, non-economic damages are just as real but can be harder to prove. They include things like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. There are no bills or pay stubs that can prove your non-economic damages. So properly rating pain in a personal injury case can make a big difference in the amount of your recovery. Your injury lawyer will know how to best prove these less tangible losses and can help you get the compensation you need to put your life back together.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
Any physical or mental anguish that accompanies an injury can constitute pain and suffering. The term encompasses many things, including:
- Emotional distress,
- Emotional or physical pain,
- Physical disfigurement,
- Mental anguish,
- Loss of intimacy with your partner or spouse, and
- Loss of enjoyment of the regular activities of life.
This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good place to start when contemplating ways to calculate pain and suffering. Many of the above-listed items can be proven with the help of your attorney. But one especially slippery thing to try to quantify is the entire idea of “pain” and how much you are experiencing.
Pain Is Subjective
When you go to the doctor’s office after an accident, they may ask you about your pain. How would you describe it? Rating pain in a personal injury case can be problematic because pain is subjective. Describing pain is even more subjective because everyone experiences pain differently. And after we experience it differently, we use different words than our neighbor to describe the level of pain.
For instance, say that Brenda and Bill somehow suffered the exact same injury. For the sake of our example, let’s say that they both slammed their hand in their car door with the exact same level of force. Both of them experience severe swelling and bruising. They each go to their respective doctors, who ask them to describe their pain. Brenda, who has a very high pain tolerance, says that it is pretty bad, but not unbearable. She reports throbbing and aching, but insists that it is “not that bad.” Bill, who has a low pain tolerance might say that the throbbing and aching is unbearable and is so bad that he cannot sleep at night. Bob might go into great detail about the exact nature of the throbbing and insist that he needs medication or therapy to help him cope.
The difficulty of quantifying this subjective experience led doctors to begin using a pain scale to help patients communicate their level of pain better.
The Pain Scale
Doctors devised pain scales to help patients rate their pain in a more uniform manner. The pain scale is meant to help put words to your pain level at various moments throughout the day. Now, understand that this scale is still subjective. Brenda might still rate her pain far lower than Bill, even using the scale. But the scale tends to help people rate pain more uniformly. It also helps people track how their pain levels fluctuate throughout the day.
We encourage you to read over this pain scale before going to your doctor’s visit. Really give it some thought, then ascribe a level to your pain according to the following chart.
- Zero means you are completely without pain;
- One means that your pain is a very minor annoyance, kind of like a bruise that you feel in the background but doesn’t cause much concern;
- Two means that your pain is a minor annoyance;
- Three means that the pain is starting to be a distraction—but you are still able to work, go to school, and do daily tasks like talking on the phone and playing video games;
- Four means that the distraction level is increasing—you can still work or carry out daily tasks, but you know the pain is there and you only forget about it when you are really engaged with what you are doing;
- Five means that your pain is to the point where you cannot ignore it for more than 30 minutes regardless of your activity;
- Six means that you can no longer ignore the pain—you feel it all the time;
- Seven means that your pain is getting so bad that concentrating on tasks is very hard;
- Eight means that you cannot really do anything except think about the pain—your activity is seriously limited;
- Nine means that your pain is so bad that it stops daily activities—you cannot talk on the phone, shower, or watch TV; and
- Ten means that your pain has rendered you completely nonfunctional—it would be the equivalent of labor pains where no other activity or thoughts are possible because the pain takes over your entire body.
Be sure to think through what you are experiencing and rate it as accurately as possible.
Further Explanation Is Helpful
In addition to carefully rating your level of pain when you visit the doctor, you want to be able to describe how your pain changes throughout the day. For instance, when you see your doctor at 9 AM, your pain may only be at a three. But if you routinely start to feel it more in the evening or after certain activities, you want to express all of this to your doctor and your attorney.
Insurance companies will try to twist your words. And if there is any discrepancy in how you describe your pain to your doctor, your physical therapist, and your lawyer, they may try to use that to suggest you are lying. So carefully think through what you are experiencing. Then carefully relay as much information as you can. Let your doctor know if your pain goes away when you take aspirin or if it gets worse after physical therapy. The more detailed you are, the better.
Call an Experienced Injury Attorney
The lawyers at Batson Nolan PLC have over 100 years of combined experience. We can help you put your pain into words. We know how to calculate your pain and suffering damages, and we know how to properly present your case to the insurance company or jury to get you the maximum compensation for your losses. There is no need to delay, and the sooner you get started the sooner you will get relief. Call or contact us online to set up a free initial consultation, and get your case started today.