Can I Sue For Pain And Suffering In Florida?
Next in my series on damages is pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a kind of damages where an accident victim may receive compensation for the physical pain of being injured, separate and apart from the cost of the medical bills. In other words, a victim may be entitled to damages greater than the cost of their medical treatment simply because the injury causes them pain and considerable. At risk of being blunt, it stinks to be in pain, and the law recognizes that.
Pain and suffering is sometimes called non-economic damages because there is no out-of-pocket loss attached to it — it’s not as simple as reading a medical bill. Because of this, juries sometimes struggle with determining an appropriate amount to award, and there can be great variation from county to county, or even from case to case within a single county court system. Consequently, awards of pain and suffering damages can seem arbitrary, and unlike out-of-pocket losses, easily calculated to the penny, pain and suffering awards tend to be round numbers.
In addition to present pain and suffering, victims can also be compensated for future pain and suffering. Think about the “old knee injury” that so many former high school football players complain of well into their 40s or 50s. Some injuries can linger and cause pain for years, even decades after the traumatic event that caused them. Awards for future pain and suffering attempt to compensate victims for the continuing pain that is likely to follow from the accident.
LIMITS ON PAIN AND SUFFERING
Pain and suffering damages in Florida accident law, however, is complicated and has many variables. For example, pain and suffering is only available in ordinary car accident cases where there is:
1. “Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;”
2. “Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement”;
3. “Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement”; or,
4. Death (Florida Statutes 627.737(2) ).
Note the word or — any one of those conditions will trigger the availability of pain and suffering damages in a typical car accident. However, pain and suffering is generally available for an accident involving a bus, motorcycle, taxi, or police car; or where a pedestrian is struck by a car. Frankly, not all of the distinctions in the law are simple or obvious, and I discuss all the variables with accident victims during our consultation — and as you can see, there are many variables.
Coming up next in the series on damages, we will look at loss of consortium, a type of claim that is widely misunderstood. If you have questions or need assistance in the meantime with your accident or injury claim, we invite you to call our Panama city personal injury law firm at (850) 785-3400 to schedule a free consultation.