“Pain and suffering” is the ugly duckling of personal injury damage claims. Many people roll their eyes when those three words are spoken, especially when spoken by personal injury lawyers. The concept is so unpopular, so despised, that when Syracuse and Central New York personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers pick juries for trial, one of the most important questions we ask, to see whether a juror can be fair, is, “what do you think of awarding compensation for pain and suffering”? Many, many prospective jurors say, “I’m against it” or like words.
Yet New York personal injury law entitles victims of the careless, negligent or intentional acts of others to FULL compensation for all their losses, including lost wages, medical expenses and, yes, “pain and suffering”. Why? Think of the “scale of justice” (pictured on this page). When someone is injured through someone else’s fault, the scale tips down on one side. The “down” side is where the victim is. The whole idea of our civil justice system is to tip the scale back up to a balanced state again. If someone has suffered lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering, would the scale be tipped upright again if he or she were compensated only for lost wages and medical expenses, but not pain and suffering?
Unfortunately, people seriously injured in an accident don’t just jump up off the pavement, brush themselves off, and go on with their lives as if nothing happened. Pain and Suffering sometimes lasts a lifetime. The victim’s way of life can be completely altered. It converts athletes into couch potatoes. It turns happy people into sad, anxious people. It turns families upside down when one parent, or child, is constantly in pain.
Pain and suffering should not be a political issue. It is not an issue to be laughed at or derided. It is very real, and very serious, for those who aren’t able to play with their kids the way they used to, or have to take pain medications every day to deaden, but never completely eliminate, the pain. When you are in pain, you can think of almost nothing else except the pain. You can’t enjoy the simple pleasures of life because the pain shouts out the pleasure.
Justice requires FULLY compensating innocent accident victims. Only a FULL cup of justice is justice. A half cup of justice is no justice at all. Awarding less than FULL compensation keeps the scales of justice forever out of balance, with the innocent victim on the downside. This is why any “civil justice system” must compensate innocent accident victims for their pain and suffering. If it does not, it cannot be called a “civil JUSTICE system”, or even a “CIVIL” system. It is just a “system”, nothing more.