Understanding Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident Settlement

There is no way around it car accidents cause physical and emotional trauma. Regardless of what type of injuries you sustain or if you “saw it coming,” losing control and fear of the unknown is enough to cause anyone distress.

Following an accident, the law allows victims to seek financial compensation for their injuries. While some injuries are obvious and can be easily accounted for, others, such as emotional distress or pain, are easier to overlook.

If you suffer from one of these invisible pains following a car accident, you may have a case for pain and suffering. For more information, contact an experienced Bronx car crash attorney who can advise you on calculating these noneconomic losses.

What is pain and suffering?

When you open a personal injury claim for your car accident, the insurance company will begin to look at the costs, i.e., how much you want them to pay. The insurance company will usually start with the obvious costs: property damage, medical bills, and lost wages. We usually call these economic damages. But anyone who has ever been in an accident can tell you these costs are just the beginning.

Pain and suffering covers subjective injuries. Pain and suffering are the physical discomfort and emotional distress that are compensable as noneconomic damages. These are injuries that you may not see or have a dollar figure to substantiate but exist nonetheless. Examples of pain and suffering include:

Physical pain or impairment

It’s easy to put a cost on a broken leg. You’ll likely receive a bill for X-rays, doctor visits, pain medications, and any corrective treatment when you have a broken bone. But what about the pain?

Broken bones can cause excruciating pain when it occurs and may eventually result in chronic pain. Then you have to consider what life looks like after recovery. Will you have a limp? Is it difficult to put weight on the affected limb? These issues affect your quality of life and can be included as damages in your personal injury case.

Mental anguish

Trauma often triggers a psychological response. One study found the prevalence of PTSD 30 days following a motor vehicle accident was as high as 33 percent. If you find yourself reliving the accident, obsessing over the events, or even altering your route to avoid the scene of the accident, you may be experiencing PTSD. It’s important to share these concerns with your doctor and your lawyer.

Other examples that may fall under mental anguish include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Embarrassment
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Insomnia

While many mental health issues respond well to treatment, victims can report issues months and even years following an accident.

Loss of companionship and loss of consortium

We connect with others in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Friends, family, and romantic partners are all valuable relationships. When preventable injuries impact these relationships, it can be heartbreaking.

Family members may have a claim for loss of companionship or loss of consortium following the death of a loved one. In the event of a serious injury, there may also be a claim for loss of consortium if the victim cannot provide financial support, physical or emotional connection, or companionship. In most cases, the state limits the rights to claim loss of companionship to the victim’s immediate family, including their spouse, parents, and children.


There is no question that car accidents can be an extreme inconvenience. Attending appointments, arranging repairs, and making alternate travel arrangements take time. For serious injuries, this could be a significant amount of time.

When an accident interferes with your work, it can be more than an inconvenience. What happens when you can no longer do the tasks required at home or work? What if a brain injury makes it difficult to concentrate? What happens if you cannot regain the reputation you worked so hard to achieve? These things matter and deserve appropriate consideration.

How do I prove pain and suffering?

Understanding Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident Settlement

Insurance companies are for-profit companies that make billions of dollars of profits per year. They achieve this by finding ways to pay as little as possible to claimants.

After a car accident, you are your best advocate for your experiences. Only you know how you are feeling, and only you can share this information with the people who matter the most.

Here are a few ways you can help your case:

  1. Don’t hide or downplay your symptoms: Whenever you go to the doctor, you must be honest about your feelings. Are you in pain? Are you anxious? Speak up. The best way to prove pain and suffering is to get it documented early, consistently, and repeatedly.
  2. Document how you feel: Journaling can be extremely valuable following a car accident. Journaling not only helps you process your feelings, but it also creates a record. Try to be as detailed as possible when you write about your feelings. Record the date and rate your pain on a scale. Provide details and write down changes in your physical symptoms and mental health.
  3. Be honest: There is no way to overstate the importance of being completely truthful during settlement negotiations. Doctors and insurance companies are very good at noting when something is off. If either one of them has concerns or catches you being dishonest, it will hurt your credibility and ultimately, the value of your case.
  4. Work with an attorney: After an accident involving preventable injuries, hire an experienced attorney. Your attorney will know how to respond to the insurance company and appropriately communicate and value your pain and suffering. Honesty and transparency are important, as your attorney can’t help you if they don’t know your experiences.

How will the insurance company calculate my pain and suffering?

When it comes to economic damages, generally, bills and receipts record the exact price that the insurance company can reimburse. As you can imagine, pain and suffering is a little trickier.

No matter what anyone says, there is no special formula to calculate pain and suffering. Each case is unique and relies on your exact circumstances.

When the insurance company considers pain and suffering, they will look at several factors. Namely, they are looking at the extent of your symptoms, how long they will affect you, and what effects these symptoms have on your quality of life.

Things the insurance company may use to value your pain and suffering include:

  • Your medical records: Your medical records are arguably the most important evidence in a car accident case. The insurance company wants proof that your injuries are what you say they are. This is why it is so important to tell your provider about all of your symptoms. Every symptom is important. Even if you think it may be irrelevant or too small.
  • Your past medical records: Insurance companies like to use pre-existing conditions to minimize the value of your case. For example, if you are complaining about back pain, but your records show you have a pre-existing back condition, the insurance company will claim that this injury is due to your pre-existing condition, not the accident. With that said, a pre-existing condition does not exclude you from claiming pain and suffering. While you may have a previous injury, your accident could have aggravated or worsened it, which you can still claim.
  • Your testimony: Your attorney will report to the insurance company how you are feeling and why they believe a certain pain and suffering award is justified. And if your case goes to court, you will likely be testifying in front of a jury. Credibility and honesty can make or break a case.
  • Witness statements: If the insurance company has questions about your testimony or injuries, they may choose to interview witnesses to corroborate your statements. These witnesses may include observers at the scene, your care team, or your close family and friends.

Other costs not included in pain and suffering

Pain and suffering is just one component of a car accident case. The other piece of the pie is economic damages. Economic damages are usually easier to prove. However, you must document your costs and work with your attorney to provide all bills and receipts.

Typical costs that fall under the classification of economic damages include:

  • Medical bills: Medical bills are among the highest costs following a car accident. In many cases, your care provider may ask for your insurance card or claim number and bill your insurance directly. In rare cases, you may need to pay out of pocket. Regardless, one of the best things you can do is keep track of your medical care and receipts, including over-the-counter medications and medical devices.
  • Lost wages: If your injuries prevent you from immediately returning to work, your attorney will likely request lost wages. Lost wages begin the first day you have to miss work and end when you can return. If you cannot return to work, you may have a claim for future lost wages through the time you would usually retire.
  • Return to work services: Some states allow accident victims to recover transitional services that allow them to return to work with additional training. If you can work but cannot return to your previous job function, you may receive compensation for the cost of training in another field and any difference in compensation.
  • Disability accommodations: Serious injuries may limit your ability to move around your own home. You can make a claim to cover the costs of residential modifications to facilitate mobility in your home.
  • Funeral and burial costs: The loss of a loved one is crushing. You should not have to worry about how you will pay for their final affairs. If your loved one dies in a car accident, you can request reasonable costs to cover these expenses.

Work with an attorney that will take your pain and suffering seriously

Andrew Finkelstein Jacoby & Meyers LLP

Car Accident Lawyer, Andrew Finkelstein

Car accidents can be complicated and involve enormous expenses. And while they may say otherwise, the insurance company will not prioritize your interest. For these reasons, it is always a good idea to talk to an experienced attorney following a car accident involving preventable injuries.

Once you hire an attorney, you no longer have to talk to the insurance company directly. In fact, the insurance company is not allowed to contact you once they know you are represented.

Besides this benefit, there are several ways your attorney can help with:

  • Evidence collection: Evidence is what proves your case. Without it, your case can turn into a battle of he-said-she-said. Your attorney can organize accident scene photographs, retrieve police reports, and request and review your medical records.
  • Witness interviews: Your attorney will contact necessary witnesses and prepare them for depositions if they deem them necessary.
  • Medical consults: Your medical record will likely play a big role in your case. Your attorney may contact your care team if they need clarification or if they believe the insurance company will call them as a witness.
  • Final settlement reconciliation: Once your case concludes, your attorney will take care of any outstanding medical costs and deduct appropriate costs and fees before they issue you a closing check.

No one should ever make you feel like your pain doesn’t matter. If you or someone you love is dealing with pain and suffering following a car accident, you may have a claim for financial damages.
Contact an experienced car accident attorney for a free case evaluation to learn more and get started on your case.