How Are Pain & Suffering Damages Calculated in a Georgia Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you have been seriously injured due to someone else’s negligence, no jury can make your debilitating pain or limited mobility disappear. No judge can relieve the sadness that comes with not being able to play with your kids or do all the things that made your life what it was before your injury. No verdict can heal profound grief or bring back a loved one who was lost suddenly because of another person’s reckless conduct.
While judges and juries can’t necessarily make pain and suffering go away, they can and do try to make things better by awarding money damages for these very real losses. As real as those losses may be after a car accident or other injury-causing event, however, pain doesn’t necessarily show up on a medical bill and suffering can’t be recorded on an invoice.
So, while Georgia law provides for the recovery of damages for the “pain and suffering” you experience, how will a jury put a dollar value on such losses?
What Is “Pain and Suffering”?
O.C.G.A. 9-10-184 provides that “In the trial of a civil action for personal injuries, counsel shall be allowed to argue the worth or monetary value of pain and suffering to the jury; provided, however, that any such argument shall conform to the evidence or reasonable deductions from the evidence in the case.”
Since “pain and suffering” is something of an abstraction, Georgia courts have provided guidance as to what factors are to be considered when trying to translate those losses into a dollar figure.
A 1995 Georgia appellate court decision, Food Lion v. Williams, 219 Ga. App. 352 (1995), listed the elements that can be taken into consideration when awarding pain and suffering damages, including:
- Interference with normal living
- Interference with enjoyment of life
- Loss of capacity to labor and earn money
- Impairment of bodily health and vigor
- The fear of extent of injury
- Shock of impact
- Actual pain and suffering, past and future
- Mental anguish, past and future
How Do You Prove the Extent of Your Pain and Suffering?
As the law states, pain and suffering damages can be awarded based on “the evidence or reasonable deductions from the evidence” presented at trial. While you may not be able to “show” pain and suffering like you can show an x-ray of a broken spinal cord, you can provide documents and other evidence which demonstrate how pain and suffering manifests itself in your daily life, how it limits your abilities and activities, how it has affected your ability to enjoy life as you once did.
Medical records which document and reflect the pain you are or were experiencing can be powerful evidence to support your claim, as can the testimony of your physicians who can testify about their observations and conclusions while treating you.
But since physical pain and mental anguish are deeply personal experiences, the best way to effectively convey the depth of this suffering is often through the words of the person experiencing it. An injury victim can provide jurors with a vivid picture of how their injury has upended their life. They can describe their feelings, they can discuss daily examples of how inescapable their injury is and how much it has changed their life for the worse, they can share the struggles they have just to do the kinds of things the rest of us may take for granted.
Similarly, friends, family members, or colleagues who have known the injury victim for a long time can share their observations about how the injury has changed the victim. They can describe to the jury how the person they knew beforehand has changed since their injury and the struggles they have observed first-hand.
Additional evidence which can be effective in proving pain and suffering damages include:
- Pictures of the plaintiff before and after the injury
- Journals, essays, or diaries that contemporaneously describe the victim’s physical and emotional state
- “Day in the life” videos which show what it is like to live with the impact of the injury during an average day
- Letters or testimony from friends and family discussing the negative impact the injury has had on the plaintiff
- Records or testimony reflecting psychological or mental health treatment
Unlike many other states, Georgia does not place a limit on the amount of damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering in a personal injury case. Such limits were enacted into law but were struck down as unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2010. This means that in some cases, the amount of pain and suffering damages a jury awards can far exceed the amount they award for “economic damages” such as medical bills, lost wages, and other quantifiable expenses incurred as a result of the injury.
Speak With an Alpharetta Car Accident Attorney at North Metro Litigators Today
The Alpharetta personal injury attorneys at North Metro Litigators know that when you have been seriously injured in a car accident or other incident, every day can bring struggles and challenges that can take all the courage and perseverance you can muster to overcome. We also know that you need and deserve the compensation and resources that can help you recover and make those challenges less daunting.
At Hait & Kuhn, we will be on your side every step of the way, fighting to make your life better, fighting to help you and your family, and fighting to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions. We offer free initial consultations and will take the time to hear your story, evaluate your case, and advise you of your options.
Please call Hait & Kuhn today at (678) 944-0000 or contact us to arrange for your free initial consultation. We welcome the opportunity to serve you.