Is Pain and Suffering Separate from Medical Bills?

is pain and suffering separate from medical bills

Those involved in accidents know how difficult and traumatizing they are. It is not just the physical distress but the long-term physical, mental, and emotional harms that take a toll on a person and their loved ones after an accident. Most states, including Texas, have a specific damages award available for this long-term stress called “pain and suffering.” Understanding what pain and suffering damages are and how pain and suffering damages differ from other types of personal injury damages like medical bills can help a victim move forward. Is pain and suffering separate from medical bills? The injury attorneys at Liggett Law Group are proud to be of service to the greater Lubbock community. We offer free consultations to any injury victim and their loved ones.

Understanding Damages

Damages are a remedy used to compensate a party or parties that suffered a wrong resulting in monetary loss. Virtually all types of personal injury claims include an analysis of financial harm inflicted due to a defendant’s actions or omissions.

Damages Example: Negligence

Negligence is a perfect legal theory to use in explaining damages. Negligence occurs when a person fails to adhere to the standard duty of care that a reasonably prudent person in a similar situation would adhere to and that failure causes harm (because of a deviation from that duty). For example, a motor vehicle driver caused a car accident after failing to signal. Under a negligence theory, the driver had a duty to signal, the driver failed to signal, the failure to signal caused an accident, and the other driver involved in the accident suffered harm.

The suffering of harm the other driver experienced is what that driver would seek in damages in order to be made financially whole after the car accident. Courts cannot turn back the clock and prevent accidents from happening. Instead, courts and the law can facilitate monetary compensation to the driver that suffered harm.

Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages

Damages are split into two categories: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are all of the calculable damages resulting from an accident. Economic damages usually include:

  • Medical bills from ambulatory care, emergency room care, hospital stays, and medication costs.
  • Physical, occupational, and emotional therapy costs.
  • Future medical costs and expenses.
  • Property damage and loss.
  • Loss of income as a direct result of injuries sustained from an accident.

Non-economic damages cannot be easily calculated by direct evidence of a person’s costs like medical bills or time off of work. Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 41.000, Subsection 12, non-economic damages are defined as:

“Damages awarded for the purpose of compensating a claimant for physical pain and suffering, mental or emotional pain or anguish, loss of consortium, disfigurement, physical impairment, loss of companionship and society, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, injury to reputation, and all other nonpecuniary losses of any kind other than exemplary damages.”

Pain and Suffering Damages Explained

Pain and suffering damages are a legal principle and right only in civil lawsuits involving a personal injury, like a motor vehicle accident. Pain and suffering damages fall under the category of non-economic damages, which cannot be easily calculated due to their intangible nature. Thus, pain and suffering only apply to particular circumstances and can often be challenging to understand and calculate.

Practical Impact of Pain and Suffering Damages

In a civil remedy context, pain and suffering are typically characterized as the physical discomfort and emotional distress caused by one or more of the issues defined under non-economic damages. For example, let us say that an able-bodied, healthy person experiences a traumatic car accident. As a result, the person becomes permanently disfigured with third-degree burns to their face and neck and loses their ability to walk.

The traumatic injury victim can seek multiple forms of non-economic damages, specifically disfigurement and physical impairment damages. Pain and suffering damages allow a court to award monetary damages to that person, which addresses the physical and emotional distress and discomfort without having to articulate that stress with something tangible like a medical bill or doctor’s note. The medical costs that can treat those injuries are easily definable, but the stress caused by those injuries is not.

In addition, pain and suffering damages allow a court to provide a subjective perspective on damages without diving into the actuarial analysis with little or no compassion for the human condition.

Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages

As explained above, pain and suffering damages can be challenging to calculate because they apply a subjective standard to an otherwise objective process. However, courts, insurance companies, parties to a civil action, etc., need some objective way to calculate pain and suffering damages. Thus, Texas encourages the use a multiplier method to calculate pain and suffering damages, but this methodology isn’t always comprehensive for a plaintiff and its use is best determined by an experienced personal injury trial lawyer.

How Do Medical Bills and Pain and Suffering Truly Differ?

Medical bills and pain and suffering damages differ because both fall under different forms of damage. Medical bills are considered economic damages that be easily calculated by adding up all of the bills generated as a direct result of an injury caused by an accident.

However, pain and suffering is a subjective standard often used to compensate a person for the non-calculable costs incurred as a result of the incident. Even though one uses an objective standard (costs), and the other uses a subjective standard, pain and suffering cannot be calculated unless the plaintiff also suffers calculable harm.

Contact Us Today

If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident or some other accident that has caused harm resulting in financial loss, it is best to speak with an attorney to understand your current situation and your legal rights. Liggett Law Group’s experienced personal injury attorneys have years of experience advocating for clients and helping them determine their economic and non-damages, including medical bills and pain and suffering. Contact us today for a free consultation for your personal injury case.