How Pain and Suffering Compensation Increases with Permanent Injuries

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Long-term disability and permanent injury claims are among the most serious. Determining pain and suffering compensation in these cases is always a challenge. The potential for huge general damage awards is so high, insurance companies often take extraordinary measures to investigate and settle them as quickly as possible.

Insurance companies know that long-term disability lawsuits often involve emotional testimony and graphic evidence of negligence. Jurors often have sympathetic reactions to such evidence, and it’s not unusual for their verdicts to include very generous awards for pain and suffering compensation.

What’s a Long-term Disability Worth?

Most personal injury claims have clearly defined costs associated with them. For example, if you’re injured in an auto accident and suffer a broken leg, you will incur specific costs for medical treatment, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. Using a multiple of 1 – 5x your actual damages (known as “specials”), it’s easy to come up with an amount for your pain and suffering.

Long-term disabilities, on the other hand, have ongoing, open-ended costs. Because of these continued costs, settlements for permanent injuries are not so easy to calculate. When future damages are undefined, projecting a definite settlement figure is much harder.

Quantifying the emotional toll a long term disability can have on a victim is almost impossible. Who can say what someone’s life would be like if they hadn’t been disabled? The enjoyment of family and friends, and the ability to engage in their previous activities is permanently diminished. Life itself may be less fulfilling. What’s that worth?

Insurance companies will do everything possible to settle long-term disability and permanent injury claims that are supported by strong evidence before they go to trial. Taking chances with jury verdicts that can reach into the millions is not good business.

Let’s look at some examples to understand these types of claims better…

Example: Permanent Brain Damage from a Car Accident

Jack was 25 years old and in excellent health. Since graduating from college 2 years ago, Jack has worked as a loan officer for a local bank. He is married and has a two-year-old daughter. While driving home from work one evening, Jack was involved in a car accident. A delivery driver for a large pizza company ran a red light and crashed into him.

Jack sustained permanent brain damage in the crash, resulting in short term memory and hearing loss. His injuries prevented him from working in the banking industry, and his future prospects for similar employment were limited.

Jack and his wife filed suit against the pizza company. Their attorneys sued for past and future costs of medical treatment and therapy, out-of-pocket expenses, and for pain and suffering compensation. They also sued for punitive damages.

During pre-trial discovery, Jack’s attorneys learned the delivery driver’s license had been suspended two months earlier, and remained suspended at the time of the collision. The suspension was due to several speeding tickets and an arrest for DUI. Further investigation revealed the pizza company’s local manager was aware of the suspension, but continued to employ the driver.

Deposition testimony from various neurologists confirmed Jack’s brain damage was irreversible. They included the projected costs of future medical treatment and therapy. Further testimony revealed the probable income Jack would have made during a 30 year banking career, including promotions, bonuses and stock options.

Tearful testimony from Jack’s wife described the close friendship and intimacy they shared before the collision, which was now lost. Jack also described in detail how his relationship with his daughter had been forever changed due to his brain damage.

The insurance company wanted to avoid trial if at all possible. They knew if a jury heard evidence of the pizza company’s actions in allowing their employee to drive with a suspended license, the jury might render a verdict of millions of dollars in punitive damages. Additionally, the jury award would include Jack’s past and future:

  • Medical treatment and therapy
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Lost income in the banking industry
  • Pain and suffering

In light of the powerful evidence, the insurance company settled before the lawsuit went to trial. The settlement included compensation for all of the above.

Example: Surgical Error Ruins Modeling Career

Susan was 20 years old and considered very attractive. After graduating from high school, she moved to New York City to begin a career as a model. Over the next two years, Susan’s career blossomed. She was doing more and more modeling, and her future looked bright.

Susan decided to have some elective plastic surgery to one of her eyes, called an “eye lift.” During the operation, the surgeon mistakenly severed a muscle below Susan’s eye.

After the surgery, Susan’s face appeared contorted. She had several consultations with other plastic surgeons, and soon realized the damage was irreversible. From then on, she was unable to find any modeling jobs. Her career was effectively over.

Susan filed suit against the surgeon. Her suit alleged the doctor’s negligence resulted in a permanent injury to her face. During pre-trial discovery, Susan’s attorneys learned the doctor had falsified information in his advertisements. Specifically, the doctor claimed he was board certified, when he wasn’t.

Susan testified she relied on that advertising and would not have chosen the doctor if she knew he wasn’t board certified in reconstructive surgery.

Susan alleged the injury ruined her modeling career, in which she would have earned several million dollars in future income. She stated the pain and suffering compensation the insurance company might pay could never substitute for the life she lost.

The doctor’s medical malpractice insurance company defended the lawsuit. Unfortunately, all of the evidence supported Susan’s allegation of malpractice. During pre-trial discovery, Susan’s attorneys produced several board certified plastic surgeons whose specialty was facial reconstructive surgery. Each offered expert testimony supporting Susan’s contention of medical malpractice.

Susan’s attorneys also produced witnesses who were reputable modeling agents. Each knew Susan and her work. They testified they believed Susan had a very promising career, and gave their opinions of the probable income Susan would have made if her face hadn’t been permanently damaged. The figures were in the millions of dollars.

The doctor’s malpractice insurance company agreed to settle the lawsuit before trial. They compensated Susan for her:

  • Past and future lost income
  • Past and future pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages for the doctor’s actions, including what Susan’s attorneys called his “reckless disregard for the truth”

You Need an Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered a permanent injury or disability due to another party’s negligence, DO NOT speak with the insurance company without first speaking to an attorney. The most innocent statements you make can be held against you.

Insurance companies are businesses. They only compensate injury victims when they absolutely have to, and even then, they’ll pay as little as possible.

To have any chance of succeeding in your permanent injury claim, you MUST be represented by an experienced personal injury attorney. Most reputable attorneys offer a free initial consultation to review the details of your case. Take advantage of this offer and meet with several attorneys as soon as possible.

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