If you suffered an injury in Tennessee because of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries. Filing a personal injury lawsuit is the most common means of pursuing damages from the at-fault person or company.
There are different types of damages that you can claim in such a lawsuit. One kind, economic damages, is a basic calculation of what your recovery is costing you in terms of property damage, medical bills, and lost wages if you missed work due to your injury.
A second type, noneconomic damages, refers to the pain and suffering you have endured and likely will struggle with in the future as a result of your injury. These damages are harder to quantify and thus harder to win.
What is the definition of pain and suffering?
This term refers to less-tangible injuries that might not be immediately observable, but can cause as much difficulty in a person’s life as a physical injury. This suffering could be physical, mental, emotional, or a combination thereof. Tennessee state law lists several factors that may contribute to an injured person’s pain and suffering, including:
- Physical impairment;
- Emotional pain or distress, which could include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, or difficulty sleeping;
- Loss companionship or consortiumrelated to injury suffered by a spouse;
- A marked decline in the ability to enjoy everyday activities; and
- Decline in level of pleasure or quality of life.
There are two types of noneconomic or pain-and-suffering damages you will need to consider when negotiating a settlement:
- Current, including any finite distress that starts with the injury itself and all of the treatment directly related to it; and
- Future, which estimates the suffering you are likely to endure indefinitely.
How do I calculate pain and suffering?
The most common means of estimating a settlement is by adding up your economic damages—medical expenses, property damage, past and future lost income, and likely future expenses—and multiplying them by a number between 1.5 and 5 that indicates the severity of your suffering. The more severe your distress is, the closer the multiplier is to 5. This number is likely to be the main source of disagreement between you and the defendant’s attorney or insurer.
Getting a high multiplier in calculating your settlement will have a lot to do with how persuasive you are in articulating the distress you have endured because of your injuries. A Knoxville personal injury attorney can help you build the strongest case possible.
Are there other ways to calculate my damages?
Another option for quantifying pain and suffering is the “per diem” approach. This approach uses a number to put a per-day cost on your distress. You can calculate this by assigning a daily value to your expenses, lost income, and estimated pain and suffering, then multiplying that by how many days pass between the injury and fullest possible recovery.
Your attorney likely will make both calculations and pursue a settlement somewhere in the middle, but it all depends on the details of your case. Keep in mind that these are only guidelines, and that insurers have no legal obligation to employ either method.
What is the highest amount I claim in pain and suffering damages?
Tennessee law caps the damages available for pain and suffering at $750,000. There are some exceptions that allow for a larger settlement, such as:
- If there is a catastrophic loss or injury;
- If the defendant acted with intent;
- If the defendant destroyed or concealed evidence; and
- If the case resulted in a felony conviction.
How can I increase my settlement?
The best strategy for getting the biggest pain and suffering settlement is by documenting your injuries and recovery as thoroughly as possible. It is likely that the defendant’s insurer will send a claims adjuster to investigate your case, and that person’s subjective judgement will play a big role in the calculation of your costs. Here are some of the factors that will determine the size of your settlement.
Seriousness of Your Injury
You will earn a lower multiplier if you sprained an ankle than if, for example, you suffered a brain or spinal injury.
Degree of Liability
Since Tennessee has a comparative fault system, it is possible for the victim to share some of the fault in an accident. As long as your fault is less than 50%, you can still file a personal injury claim. Note, though, that any settlement would become smaller in proportion to your percentage of fault.
Estimating how long it will take for a full recovery is not easy, but your doctor will likely be able to provide a prognosis about what kind of treatments, surgeries, and therapy you can expect to endure in the future.
The more evidence you have from each phase of your injury and recovery, the more likely you are to receive a fair amount of compensation. That evidence could include:
- All original medical bills from the time of your injury;
- Police reports and witness statements from when the incident occurred; and
- Expert testimony about the extent of your suffering and the difficulty of recovery.
A Knoxville attorney with experience fighting for the injured will know what kind of evidence to collect to present the strongest case possible on your behalf.
Do I need a lawyer?
A personal injury lawsuit is a serious and complicated process. The person or company responsible for your injury or their insurers may work to undermine your case in order to pay the smallest settlement possible.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC have years of experience dealing with injury cases and will be able to guide you through every part of this process. Contact us at 865-546-1111 for a free consultation on how to get the most compensation for your pain and suffering.