In a personal injury lawsuit, a defendant is not only responsible for paying medical bills, but also for pain and suffering, lost wages and the loss of one’s ability to enjoy life. While this seems like it can be arbitrary numbers, wrongful death lawyer Prescott, explains how one attaches a monetary amount to something so seemingly esoteric.
It seems that medical bills are rather easy to quantify as they usually have a dollar amount at the bottom. But isn’t it extremely difficult to monetize one’s pain and suffering or ability to enjoy life?
It is partially correct that medical bills are much more straightforward to prove in court, but medical bills are still not as simple and easy to prove as one might think. The defendant’s side will argue that the treatments do not relate to the accident, or that they were the wrong type of treatment or any other sort of other argument that will try to lower the medical costs that they will have to pay. Still, numbers from a hospital bill for a specific treatment are by far more hard and fast than pain, suffering and loss of one’s ability to enjoy life and work.
While pain and suffering are far more subjective, we do have means to monetize and prove damages. There are precedents set from previous cases which we refer to and also basic questions we ask to attach a price tag. The way to quantify pain and suffering, or even embarrassment, is to ask the right questions to the jury and to the plaintiff: How much would you pay me to not take away the ability for you to walk for the rest of your life? How much would you pay me so you won’t have back pain the rest of your life? How much would you pay me to not put a horrible permanent burn scar on your face?
From there, we try to quantify it. Each case is different, of course, but we use a number of tools and experts who are professionals at this exact system who try to attach a number. They use various tools and algorithms that help them get as close to the mark as possible. There is a mortality table, which uses a variety of factors to make an estimation as to how long this person will live so we can calculate years of life expectancy. Doctors can advise the jury as to how much pain or how badly this particular injury damages a person’s ability to enjoy life. An economist might be able to calculate how much money this person might have made in the next 30 years based on his career given data he is familiar with as well as the economical climate and forecasts.
We try to quantify it as best we can. There is no exact science to this skill, but rather, it is an art. While there are certainly precedents set and experts who can advise, in the end, it is subjective and can vary vastly from case to case. The bottom line though is that I have 37 years doing personal injury law and I usually know about what a person can get for a specific injury and that is what we try to aim for. A surgical knee tends to go for $40,000 to $75,000 for example. I can usually listen to the client, get a basic understanding of the circumstances, and give a ballpark figure. If we do sign with the client, then we start getting into the details as to how much exactly we should seek in damages.
In the end though, unless we settle, which happens in probably 90% of cases, it is up to the jury to decide. Once it goes to trial, there is no right and wrong and there is no fair or unfair. Whatever the jury decides is the correct amount and that becomes the law.
Charles Flaxman is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find a Lawyer or more Law articles at Yodle Consumer Guide. Personal Injury Lawsuits: How to Value Pain and Suffering