Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering After a Car Accident?

February 7, 2024

Can you sue for pain and suffering after a car accident? In Pennsylvania, the general answer to that question is “yes.” Pain and suffering are allowed as damages in car accident claims. But pain and suffering can be very hard to prove because they aren’t always obvious to the naked eye. Proving pain and suffering often takes the help of a skilled car accident attorney.

Pain and suffering damages compensate injured people for the physical and emotional pain they have experienced due to their crash. This might include ongoing pain from broken bones, pinched nerves, or other physical harm. It might include depression, loss of enjoyment of life, and other emotional issues caused by the accident. While getting compensation for your pain and suffering won’t make it go away, it can help you handle day-to-day financial problems caused by your accident.

The High Cost of Pennsylvania Car Accidents

Each year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) releases an annual report on accident statistics across the state. Data in the report sheds light on the high number of injuries and fatalities that occur in Pennsylvania each year. Statistics from 2022 include the following:

  • 1,179 people died in Pennsylvania crashes.
  • 1,092 Pennsylvania crashes resulted in at least one fatality.
  • 49,068 people were injured in Pennsylvania crashes.
  • 4,751 people suffered serious injuries in Pennsylvania crashes.

Pennsylvania drivers set a new record in 2019 with the lowest rate of driving fatalities since 1928, when the state first started reporting driver fatalities. However, since then, the rate has continued to fluctuate; 2022 marks the fourth-lowest fatality rate in state history.

The report also estimates that the total costs for all car crashes in Pennsylvania for 2022 was over $29 billion. The crash statistics alone are sobering enough. However, behind each number lies the immeasurable amount of pain and suffering these crashes bring.

Each year, thousands of Pennsylvanians lose a parent, child, or spouse in an avoidable car or truck accident. Thousands more are robbed of their ability to work, support their families, or perform simple daily tasks. No crash report can even attempt to measure the amount of emotional pain that is inflicted with each crash on Pennsylvania roadways.

Understanding Pain and Suffering Compensation

Car accident compensation in Pennsylvania is divided into two types: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are what compensate crash victims for the provable costs of an accident. These are damages that have a measurable dollar amount, such as medical bills or wages lost during recovery.

Non-economic damages are a means of compensating accident victims for the costs of a crash that don’t have a set monetary value. Pennsylvania law identifies four different types of non-economic damages. These are:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Embarrassment and humiliation
  • Loss of ability to enjoy the pleasures of life
  • Disfigurement.

The law specifies that the five areas that fall under the category of pain and suffering include:

  • Physical pain
  • Mental anguish
  • Discomfort
  • Inconvenience
  • Distress.

It’s worth noting that recovering pain and suffering damages usually happens only for accidents that lead to death or serious injury. When injuries are minor, it can be difficult for a lawyer to demonstrate that the emotional impact of a crash has far outweighed the physical impact for the injured individual.

However, in some cases, less serious injuries can potentially lead to pain and suffering damages. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common outcome of car accidents, even minor ones. A person can develop PTSD without suffering any injury. Severe PTSD can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental health and quality of life. A person living with PTSD from a crash might be unable to continue driving, return to work, or care for their child. PTSD also commonly leads to additional mental and behavioral health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use.

It takes a skilled and experienced car accident lawyer to investigate how a crash has impacted an individual’s life and build a case for pain and suffering compensation.

How Much Do You Get for Pain and Suffering?

How much do you get for pain and suffering? There is no easy answer to that question. There is no exact formula that the court uses to determine an amount. Every pain and suffering award is based on an individual’s unique circumstances. What you might get depends on several things:

  • What type of injuries you have and how severe they are. When you have an obvious injury, such as a broken bone, most people understand that you would be in pain. But with a less visible injury, such as soft tissue damage, your pain may not be understood.
  • Whether you have a disfiguring injury, such as scarring or burns to your face. In addition to physical pain from these injuries, you might also be embarrassed to be seen, causing anxiety and depression.
  • How the injuries impact your daily life. If you have an injury that makes it impossible for you to perform your job, like a spinal injury, this might affect how much you get in damages. If you can no longer perform favorite hobbies or activities, this may also be taken into account.

There is no simple answer to how much you might get. It is all about proving who caused the accident and the pain and suffering and showing the extent of it and how much it has negatively impacted your life.

Read on to learn about proving pain and suffering from a car accident.

Proving Pain and Suffering from a Car Accident

Proving pain and suffering isn’t simple, but there are some basic things that will help your case. The most important is whether you saw a doctor after your accident. If you didn’t see a doctor, it will probably be assumed that you were not in pain.

Here is the type of evidence you can collect to help you prove pain and suffering damages:

  • Medical records – This includes records, notes, and X-rays from doctors, physical therapists, and other medical providers. It also includes bills for these visits.
  • Prescription records – Keep records of prescriptions you’ve been given to help with pain, anxiety, or other problems. Over-the-counter pain medication receipts should also be included.
  • Proof from your employer of time you’ve lost at work – If you can’t work due to pain, having documentation from your company that proves it can be valuable.
  • Photographs of your injuries – If you have bruises and swelling, scarring, broken bones, or other obvious injuries, taking photographs is a good idea.
  • A pain journal – Keeping a daily written record of your pain levels is a smart idea. The journal should include how the pain affected your activities and how often you had to take medication to reduce it.
  • Documentation from family and friends. This documentation might discuss how you were before the accident and how the pain or emotional anguish from the crash has affected your life.

Expert witnesses may also be brought in by your lawyer to help prove pain and suffering. An expert witness might be your own doctor who would discuss your injuries and pain. Or the witness could be another doctor who deals with the kind of injury you’ve suffered. It might be a psychologist or therapist who handles mental health issues. A pain management specialist might be used to help establish your degree of pain and how long it can be expected to last.

Get Help from Our Skilled Philadelphia Accident Attorneys

As you can see, there are many factors in proving pain and suffering. It can be very difficult for injured people to do this on their own. It is usually best to have the help of a skilled personal injury attorney. Lawyers who focus in this area of the law know what kind of evidence to present to make judges or juries recognize their clients are in physical or emotional distress.

When you’ve been in a serious injury crash, your first concern should be recovery. Of course, the doctor bills and other costs you are now facing because of the accident won’t go away on their own. This is why the question of whether or not you can sue for pain and suffering after a car accident is such an important one. It is important to understand your rights after being injured because of another driver’s negligence. One of those rights is to receive compensation. If you had not been in a crash you would not be facing medical expenses or pain and emotional suffering. It is fair to expect to be compensated for these things.

A skilled car accident attorney from Wapner Newman in Philadelphia can review your case and work toward getting you the compensation you deserve. Call our Pennsylvania law office at (215) 569-0900 to schedule a free consultation.