Being injured in a car accident can be painful and devastating. Victims not only experience physical pain, they are also often faced with financial distress due to substantial medical bills that are coupled with the inability to work. To make matters even worse, a serious injury may cause the victim to suffer emotional trauma as well. However, when the accident leaves the victim with permanent injuries to the face, victims often experience an additional level of emotional trauma and have a long road to recovery.
Compensation in Personal Injury Cases
Victims of accidents caused by the negligence of another person are entitled to receive compensation for the losses suffered as a result of the accident. For example, through a personal injury lawsuit victims can recover compensation to recoup the medical expenses related to the treatment of injuries. Because injuries often cause victims to miss work, victims may also be able to recover lost wages. Furthermore, if as a result of such injuries, the victim is unable to earn the same amount of money as prior to the accident, the victim can seek compensation for loss of future earning capacity. In cases where the trauma suffered in the accident is not only physically trying but also emotionally trying, a court may award the victim significant damages for pain and suffering.
Pain and Suffering
Unlike damages awarded for medical expenses and lost wages, an award for pain and suffering is not an economic award. Sometimes referred to as “quality-of-life” damages, non-economic awards such as pain and suffering are intended to compensate the victim for injuries and losses that are not easily quantifiable. Pain and suffering awards are linked to the emotional trauma a victim experienced because of the accident and injuries such as depression, inconvenience, and mental anguish. It is also linked to physical trauma such as disfigurement, pain, and extended limitations on physical activities.
According to a South Carolina personal injury attorney where there is a permanent, visible manifestation of the suffering experienced by the victim such as facial disfigurement, the emotional trauma is likely to be greater. Examples of facial disfigurement include scarring, burns, bone damage, or damage to facial attributes such as the eyes, nose, ears, or lips. Having to live with a facial disfigurement is not only a constant reminder of the accident but it can also affect the victim’s self-esteem and daily life. Unfortunately in our society people who have a “different” appearance are often stared at, laughed at, pitied, and even passed over for jobs. Even if the disfigurement can be minimized or eliminated with surgery, the process often involves several procedures and an extended period of recovery.
Because of the number of invasive procedures victims with facial disfigurement must endure, coupled with perhaps a lifetime of scarring and self-consciousness, courts often determine that such victims are entitled to pain and suffering damage awards that are greater than victims who experience other types of injuries. Putting a dollar amount on pain and suffering damages is an inexact science. The formula used by the court can vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and case to case. In many cases the court will add up the economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages, and multiply the total by 2, 3, 4 or 5. Ultimately, a jury can award any amount it sees fit based on the evidence presented. Whatever the award amount is, the lives of victims with permanent facial injuries will be forever changed.
Many believe that pain and suffering awards are often too high and akin to hitting the lottery. Do you think that there should be a statutory cap on pain and suffering awards? Should there be a consistent formula that courts must apply in all cases?