7 Ways to Prove Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Claim

There are different ways to prove pain and suffering in a personal injury claim. See how to justify the settlement you deserve.

If you are harmed by someone’s negligence you have a right to pursue compensation for your pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

The pain of an injury is different for each individual and can’t be quantified by bills and receipts. Before you begin calculating your pain and suffering demand, think about proving how your injuries affected your lifestyle and well-being.

You have to convince the insurer that the pain and suffering you’ve experienced has negatively impacted your quality of life. Here are seven ways to provide credible evidence of your pain and suffering.

Evidence of Pain and Suffering:

  1. Medical Treatment Records
  2. Photographs and Videos
  3. Witness Statements
  4. Expert Witness Testimony
  5. Detailed Written Notes
  6. Reports Arising from the Event
  7. Tangible Personal Property Items

Bonus: Proving High-Dollar Pain and Suffering Claims

1. Medical Treatment Records

Tell your doctors and other medical providers how the injury is affecting your activities of daily living, both physically and emotionally. Discuss your feelings of depression, anxiety, frustration, and loss of enjoyment of life, in addition to your physical experience of pain, discomfort, itching, stiffness, nausea, and so on.

You or your attorney will obtain copies of your medical records when gathering documentation for your personal injury claim. You want these records to show how your injuries caused profound pain and emotional distress.

Examples of linking medical records to pain and suffering claims:

  • The doctor has restricted you from lifting more than 10 pounds, so you can’t care for your 20-pound baby.
  • You have trouble sleeping, and when you do, you have nightmares, so your doctor orders sleeping pills.
  • You’ve been instructed not to drive for two weeks, so you are forced to rely on others to drive your children to school.
  • You are seeing a counselor to treat depression, caused by the long and painful recovery from your injuries.

2. Photographs and Videos

Photographs of your injuries can say a lot about your pain and suffering. Take pictures of your bruising, swelling, stitches, and other visible signs of your physical injuries. Pictures of you in a hospital bed or gurney can be very compelling. Continue to take pictures throughout your treatment and recovery.

Surveillance videos may show your slip and fall, including laying on the floor writhing in pain, or crying and clutching the affected body part.

Pictures of the injury location can also tell the tale of your suffering, even after the fact. Photos of a mangled car or bicycle, pools of blood on a floor or sidewalk, or torn scraps of your clothing still stuck in a defective machine can speak volumes.

Have someone take a video of you using your wheelchair, crutches, or walker. Similarly, take pictures of the bed you had to set up downstairs, the steps you can’t climb, and of the medical devices and equipment you must use because of your injuries.

3. Witness Statements

Just like you can ask someone at the scene to provide a witness statement, you can also ask your family, friends, and helpers to write down what you’ve been going through since the injury.

Witnesses can write about your struggles with:

  • Personal care
  • Meals
  • Housework
  • Childcare
  • Pet care
  • Transportation

Your helpers can describe what you couldn’t do for yourself after the injury. While only you can say how it made you feel, your helpers can state their observations of your apparent pain and suffering.

For example, they can describe how you were moaning with pain after surgery, tearful because you couldn’t pick up your baby, or embarrassed that you needed help bathing.

4. Expert Witness Testimony

Some types of severe injury claims, including medical malpractice and defective product cases, turn into a battle of experts in a full-blown personal injury lawsuit. Injury attorneys often arrange for experts to testify about the victim’s pain and suffering.

Medical or mental health experts may testify about:

  • A brain injury victim’s emotional capacity
  • An injured child’s emotional distress
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Pain associated with severe burns
  • A person’s pre-death suffering in a wrongful death case

5. Detailed Written Notes

Keep a diary or journal with detailed notes about the impact of the injury on your life and happiness.

Use descriptive language to explain:

  • Daily pain levels from physical injuries
  • Humiliation from impairments or disfigurement
  • Frustration from not being able to work, cook, or other tasks
  • Fear of continued disability
  • Worry about rising medical expenses
  • Heartache over missing important holidays or special occasions
  • Sadness or depression

To succeed in raising your settlement amount, you must be able to put your pain and suffering into words that are clear, reasonable, and persuasive to the adjuster.

Take time to think about what you lost and how you suffered as a result of the injury. You only have one opportunity to settle your claim, so don’t hold back.

Keep in mind that your journal may be used as evidence if your insurance claim turns into a personal injury lawsuit. Do express your anger and frustrations, but avoid name-calling or using language that you wouldn’t want to be read in front of a jury.

6. Reports Arising from the Event

In addition to medical records, other types of reports related to your injuries have information that may help support your claim for pain and suffering.

Police car accident reports have a section where the investigating officer indicates apparent injuries of the victims, like visible bleeding and if the victim was taken to the hospital. The crash report will also indicate if there were fatalities, if the at-fault driver was drunk, or any other factors that can increase the emotional aspect of your case.

Fire and rescue reports will indicate your emotional state immediately after the accident. If you had to be cut out of a vehicle, dug out from under fallen building material, or extricated from faulty machinery, the terror and pain you experienced are part of your non-economic damages.

Incident reports, like one from a store or work accident, may include helpful information about the traumatic circumstances around your injury.

7. Tangible Personal Property Items

Tangible items are clothes and other items related to your injuries that help illustrate your physical and mental pain.

Tangible items can be a type of evidence that convinces the insurance adjuster to pay more to settle your claim, rather than risk provoking an emotional response from a jury.

Examples of compelling tangible evidence include:

  • Ripped and bloody jeans worn by a dog bite victim
  • A child’s broken doll or teddy bear damaged in a car crash
  • Broken eyeglasses related to a head injury
  • Shattered watch face stopped at the time of the accident
  • Dented motorcycle or bicycle helmet

Never hand over tangible evidence to the insurance company. Keep your evidence stored in a zip-top bag or plastic bin, with the date of the injury and a description of the item.

Proving High-Dollar Pain and Suffering Claims

If you’ve fully recovered from relatively minor bodily injuries, you may decide to handle your own claim. For most minor injury claims, insurance companies are willing to pay a reasonable amount of pain and suffering compensation, typically a multiplier of one or two times the amount of economic damages.

Ask for a higher dollar amount for pain and suffering and you’ll be in for a fight, which is why serious personal injury cases are best handled by attorneys. Only an experienced attorney can ensure fair compensation for profound physical pain and mental anguish.

Your personal injury attorney will ensure you seek compensation for all your losses. They know how to calculate a fair dollar value for your past and future pain and suffering.

Experienced attorneys can gather evidence of your pain and suffering that you’d have a hard time getting on your own, like surveillance videos and expert witness opinions.

Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to victims and their families. No matter the severity of the injury, there’s no cost to finding out what a good attorney can do for you or your loved one.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>