After an accident in Indiana, you may find yourself struggling with insurance companies. You feel you deserve compensatory damages for the pain and suffering you’ve endured, however, the liable party’s insurer offers you a settlement that only covers your financial hardships. You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, too, but this typically requires negotiating. It is difficult, but not impossible, to do this without a lawyer.
What pain and suffering means
If you’ve watched a courtroom procedural television show, you’ve heard the phrase “pain and suffering” thrown around. Although the legal phrase is nuanced, it basically means what it sounds like.
In the legal world, pain and suffering encompasses physical and emotional injuries endured in an accident. These damages aren’t economic, but they can mean monetary compensation.
If you have lasting physical pain or permanent injuries or experience diagnosed anxiety or depression from your accident, you could be entitled to pain and suffering compensation. If you’ve lost a loved one in an accident, this could also fall under emotional compensatory damages.
Compensatory claims for pain and suffering
Legally, many forms of physical and emotional anguish can fall under a pain and suffering claim. Although evidence is necessary to prove these claims, it’s important to know the distress you’ve experienced after an accident could lead to compensation.
Emotional pain and suffering
Emotional pain and suffering can come with a multitude of symptoms. If you have received treatment or been diagnosed with any of the following signs of emotional trauma as a result of your accident, you may have a legal case:
- Cognitive Impairments
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Psychological trauma
Physical pain and suffering
On the surface, physical pain and suffering appears to be easier to identify than emotional injuries. However, chronic pain, which may not be visible, can also qualify you for a pain and suffering claim. If your physical injuries from your accident have altered your quality of life, they deserve to be legally acknowledged. Some examples of physical pain and suffering include:
- Facial Scarring
- Hearing loss or impairment
- Loss of limb
- Nerve Damage
- Permanent disfigurement
- Spinal cord injury
- Torn ligaments
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Vision loss or impairment
Indiana laws on pain and suffering
Indiana law states that if you’re 50% or more at fault in your accident, you cannot recover any damages (this falls under the Indiana definition of modified comparative negligence and Indiana Civil Law and Procedure § 34-51-2-6 ).
In Indiana, compensatory claims can include economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages (punitive damages are typically determined by a judge or jury and mean that a defendant acted with gross negligence or malice).
Negotiating your claim without a lawyer
In Indiana, you are permitted to negotiate your pain and suffering claim without a lawyer. However, the burden of proof in your claim remains yours. You must estimate the value of your suffering and hold comprehensive, working knowledge of insurance and compensatory laws.
Be prepared for a fight. Insurance companies may hesitate meeting with you in mediation meetings and will certainly have a top legal team who can refuse to meet your desired compensation. The insurer’s attorneys may have expertise and years of fighting pain and suffering claims. You could face a lengthy mediation process as well, full of back and forth legal opinions and decreasing counter offers to your claim.
Estimating value of your pain and suffering
It’s tough to put a value on your pain and suffering. How can you quantify what you’ve lost as a result of your accident? Calculable damages such as loss of wages and medical bills are included in basic compensation. However, pain and suffering are considered general, incalculable damages.
Insurance companies use “multipliers” to determine the compensation they feel your pain and suffering deserves.Typically, this method involves placing a value of 1 to 5 on your injuries. For instance, paralysis or loss of limb may be counted as a “5,” while a partial tear of a ligament may be a “2.”
The ranked injury is then multiplied by the amount of calculable damages. For example, if you incurred $20,000 in bills for your level 4 injury, an insurer may multiply the $20,000 and offer you an $80,000 pain and suffering claim. This system doesn’t make room for costs like future bills or loss of enjoyment of life: The insurance company only crunches numbers and doesn’t see the human lives adversely impacted.
However, if your case goes to court, a judge and jury will take your physical injuries, emotional and mental anguish into account when deciding what monetization to place on your pain and suffering. Witness testimony attesting to your quality of life since your accident could also be weighed in the court’s verdict.
Gathering evidence and writing a demand letter
If you decide to negotiate your pain and suffering without a lawyer, you will need to prepare before you approach the insurance company. Preparation means gathering evidence to prove your case and writing a letter of demand to the insurer.
Evidence you’ll need in negotiating your pain and suffering settlement includes:
- Photographic or video evidence of the accident
- An official police report
- Medical documentation
- Witness statements
The letter of demand should come after you’ve been fully evaluated by medical personnel and have a grasp of the scope of the acident’s long-term impact on your life. Your demand letter will also have to explicitly explain why an insurance company is liable for your injuries, and set a price on what you feel would be just compensation. Any monetary figure you come up with cannot be pulled from thin air, and should also have documentation to back it up.
You should have your evidence thoroughly collected and documented. This evidence may include examination by forensic experts along with witness statements from the accident and from those who have witnessed the suffering you’ve endured after your accident.
You will also need to be willing to negotiate with the insurer: This doesn’t mean you have to accept their first (likely extremely low) offer of compensation. However, they may not meet your full claim demand. If you cannot settle and agree on a settlement, you’ll have to prepare to incur the costs of taking your lawsuit to court.
How a lawyer can help with your pain and suffering claim
A seasoned lawyer with a proven success record may be your best path to success when negotiating a pain and suffering claim. A personal injury attorney understands the nuances that go into each claim — you may not know how much to ask for on your own. An empathetic lawyer who has battled against insurance companies before can walk alongside you and help in negotiations.
At Yosha Law, we are passionate about our clients and consider them part of our family. We will help you negotiate your pain and suffering and fight for what you’re rightfully owed.
We also offer an initial free case evaluation where we can help you explore the merits of your case and guide you through the legal process.