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After a serious car accident in Georgia, there is a long road back to wellness. One of the most commonly asked questions is “how do you figure out how much pain and suffering a jury will award?” The answer really lies in the severity of the original injury and the course of healing and ultimate outcome.
To understand how to calculate pain and suffering, the starting point of the conversation is the Georgia law on the subject: OCGA 9-10-184 says:
“In the trial of a civil action for personal injuries, counsel shall be allowed to argue the worth or monetary value of pain and suffering to the jury; provided, however, that any such argument shall conform to the evidence or reasonable deductions from the evidence in the case.”
That does not tell the whole story, but it lets you know that pain and suffering can be defined by a number of factors. What are some of the common factors in calculating the award?
At the lower end of the spectrum, there are injuries that only require intense physical therapy to come back from. This can include everything from basic strains and partial tears of the rotator cuff to bulging and herniated discs. As an example let’s imagine a severe crash with emergency room care followed by orthopedic follow-up and physical therapy. If you go through say 3 months of physical therapy and make a good recovery there will be limits on the arguments that can be made to a jury. Juries care a great deal but they are not going to make irresponsible awards. For standard physical therapy, you could see $1000 to $2000 per month for the suffering award and another portion for the severity of the initial injury. If you were dealing with fractures, the award would trend significantly higher due to the limitations and the nature of the pain.
At the other end of the spectrum are long term injuries with permanent consequences. Examples include clients with compound fractures requiring ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) surgical repairs. Each case is unique as each recovery is unique. One of our clients who had compound fractures and lower leg surgery never recovered fully. With a permanent limp, she has ongoing problems that may haunt her for years. It that case while the medical bills only came to $50,000 because the surgery was done at a rural hospital, an award of over $300,000 was appropriate for her suffering and limitations.
As with compensation for medical bills, any award for pain and suffering is not subject to income tax.
Remember that at its core, our tort compensation system is not a lottery ticket to be abused. It is there to balance the scales when people sustain serious injuries. No number is ever perfect because there is no ideal value for an injury. It comes from a jury consensus. If you have specific questions ask an Atlanta lawyer about pain and suffering.