In my last blog post, I explained that “pain and suffering” is an important part of compensation sought in a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury lawyers here in Central New York, and everywhere else for that matter, tend to lump the two words, “pain” and “suffering”, together as if they meant the same thing. But they don’t. There is a difference between “pain” and “suffering”. That’s what today’s blog is about.
Generally, “pain” is the physical part of the equation. For example, fractures, broken bones and nerve impingements all cause physical pain. Suffering, on the other hand, is the mental and emotional harm that physical pain can cause. The physical pain inhibits the victim’s ability to work, exercise, or do his or her normal routines. For example, a victim of an accident may not be able to go bowling anymore, or not be able to hold his or her child. This can cause serious psychological suffering, including anxiety, sadness and depression. That is what we call “suffering”.
If the pain is long term, then the suffering is usually correspondingly greater. Long term disabilities can cause a lot of “suffering”. They can create a permanent and dramatic change in lifestyle and life outlook, leading to depression, fear, panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even suicidal thoughts.
So pain causes suffering. And a lot of pain causes a lot of suffering. But pain is not the only thing that causes suffering. The other losses suffered by a severely injured person also cause suffering. For example, an injured parent may have had a good income, but now can’t work. Her income is drastically reduced and she can no longer afford to provide her children with the same lifestyle. This causes suffering, that is, mental anguish, worry, stress and emotional turmoil.
So there you have it. When personal injury lawyers talk about “pain and suffering” compensation, they mean compensation for the total culmination of the physical and psychological and emotional aspects affecting the victim after an accident. Under our civil justice system, those who endure pain and suffering because of someone else’s carelessness, negligence or intentional wrongdoing, are entitled to full compensation.
A competent trial lawyer must know the proper techniques for enhancing a jury’s understanding of, and feeling for, his or her client’s pain and suffering. If fact, that is one of the most important things a personal injury trial lawyer can do. The other losses (lost income, medical bills, etc.) often speak for themselves. But since pain and suffering are invisible, the trial lawyer must know how to make them not only visible, but palpable and real to the jury.