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What is ‘Pain And Suffering’ in a Personal Injury Case

definition of pain and suffering

It’s Not Just Physical: Pain and Suffering in Personal Injury Cases Go Beyond the Surface

Have you heard of “pain and suffering” in personal injury cases? This practice area can be a maze despite its simplicity. These damages are the physical and emotional suffering caused by someone else’s negligence. 

Quantifying and proving these damages might be difficult due to legal issues. California’s complex personal injury lawsuits can be difficult to navigate. To get the compensation you deserve, hire a skilled personal injury lawyer.

They possess the knowledge and experience to help you understand and pursue your rights effectively.

Quick Summary

Below is an overview of the critical points of this article.

  • Pain and suffering in law refers to the physical discomfort or emotional distress resulting from a personal injury, including various mental and physical challenges.
  • You can seek compensation for different types of pain and suffering after an accident in California, including anger, anxiety, damage to reputation, depression, disfigurement, emotional distress, embarrassment, grief, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
  • These damages fall under non-economic harm in personal injury cases, and they can vary widely in value.
  • California does not typically impose a maximum limit on compensation for most personal injury cases, but there are exceptions, such as medical malpractice.
  • Compensation for pain and suffering is usually tax-free for physical injuries and illnesses but may be taxable for emotional distress without physical injury.
  • California’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally two years from the date of the incident.
  • There are exceptions to the statute of limitations, including delayed discovery, cases involving minors or those lacking legal capacity, and instances where the defendant leaves the state.

What is the Definition of Pain and Suffering?

The law considers “pain and suffering” important. From a broad perspective, it refers to the emotional and physical suffering a personal injury produces.

What types of Pain and Suffering can I get compensation for?

After an accident in California, you can legally file a lawsuit against the responsible parties to seek compensation for the various forms of damages you may have endured:


In a personal injury case, direct incident-related anger is compensable. 


This is typically caused by trauma like accidents, which can change one’s life. The accident may have increased your worry, making you eligible for compensation.


Disfigurement refers to visible, permanent alterations to your physical appearance resulting from the accident. Compensation may be sought to cover not only the physical aspects but also the emotional challenges of disfigurement.


Experiencing embarrassment as a result of the accident, especially if it occurred in public, can be emotionally distressing. Compensation can help address the emotional toll of embarrassment.


The loss of a loved one in an accident can lead to profound grief. In such cases, compensation can assist in addressing the emotional suffering and potential financial burdens associated with the loss.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

When an accident limits your ability to partake in activities you once enjoyed, you can seek compensation for the loss of enjoyment and the emotional impact of this restriction.

Mental Suffering

Mental suffering encompasses various emotional responses to a traumatic event, such as shock, nervousness, and anguish. Compensation can help address the mental toll this suffering takes on you.


Experiencing mortification, a deep sense of embarrassment and humiliation, due to an accident can have lasting emotional effects. Seeking compensation can help alleviate the distress caused by these emotions.


Persistent nervousness or anxiety resulting from the accident may warrant compensation to assist with managing these emotional challenges.


An accident can be a traumatic ordeal, and you can seek compensation to address the emotional distress and any ongoing psychological effects it has had on you.

Physical Pain

Compensation for physical pain is often straightforward, covering the tangible suffering resulting from injuries sustained in the accident.

Physical Impairment

If the accident has led to physical impairment, such as the loss of mobility or functionality, you may seek compensation for the physical and emotional challenges this impairment presents.


The shock of being involved in an accident can be profound and have lasting emotional effects. Seeking compensation can help address the emotional toll of this initial shock.


If the accident subjected you to terror or extreme fear, compensation can assist in addressing the emotional trauma and its impact on your overall well-being.

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

Plaintiffs might settle personal injury claims for these non-economic losses. The difference between economic and non-economic damages is that economic damages are quantifiable losses with a definite financial worth. Five essentials for anybody considering a personal injury lawsuit:

  • These damages cover a wide range of mental and physical distress, including emotions like anger and grief, as well as physical conditions such as disfigurement and harm to one’s reputation.
  • Calculating compensation for these damages lacks a set formula. It varies case by case.
  • Typically, these damages are assessed using a multiplier approach.
  • In many instances, pain and suffering compensation for physical injuries and illnesses is tax-free, while emotional distress compensation may be taxable.
  • Certain personal injury cases may restrict the amount of pain and suffering damages that can be recovered.

In California, individuals who have suffered personal injuries have the potential to receive compensation for pain and suffering in various situations. This includes car accidents, slips and falls, injuries caused by defective products, and medical malpractice claims. 

Starting from January 1, 2022, these damages can also be granted in survival actions related to wrongful death cases.

How to Calculate These Damages?

Judges and juries don’t follow rigid rules when determining compensation. Instead, they consider various factors, which include:

  • The level of negligence displayed by the defendants
  • The severity of your injuries
  • How typical emotional and physical distress is for people with similar injuries
  • How your injuries impact daily life, like basic tasks and family responsibilities
  • Your career and work life
  • Your overall health and the expected recovery time
  • The medical treatment you’ve received and any ongoing care needed
  • The eventual outcome and anticipated recovery progress

Once you establish that you’ve experienced specific physical injuries or emotional distress, a judge or jury will exercise their judgment to determine a fair monetary value for compensation.

What Methods Are Used to Calculate Compensation?

Compensation is evaluated using the multiplier and per diem approaches. These methods value the victim’s emotional and intangible losses.

Multiplier Method

The multiplier approach multiplies the victim’s economic damages, such as medical expenses and missed wages. This multiplier, usually 1.5–5, analyzes the injuries’ severity, impact on the victim’s life, and duration and permanence. 

If a plaintiff had $50,000 in medical expenditures and lost income and the multiplier is 3, the compensation would be $150,000 (3 times $50,000) plus economic losses.

Per Diem Method

Per diem awards the plaintiff a fixed daily rate for pain and suffering. Judges or juries set this rate based on injury severity and impact. 

The per diem fee is multiplied by the number of days the victim is projected to endure, taking into account the estimated recovery time or symptom duration, to calculate compensation. Case-specific factors can affect the overall sum. 

If the per diem rate is $200 and the sufferer is expected to suffer for 500 days, the compensation would be $100,000.

How Can I Prove Pain and Suffering in My Personal Injury Case?

There are various efficient ways to establish these damages. These methods may include data on medical conditions, views of experts, victim testimonies, and psychological assessments:

Medical Records and Expert Testimony

Medical records and expert testimony are essential to prove these damages in a personal injury case. Your injuries, treatments and overall health can be shown in these records. 

Medical professionals can provide light on your bodily and emotional distress, supporting your claim.

Witness Testimony

Witnesses to the accident or its aftermath might prove to establish these damages. Their firsthand stories can help your case by revealing your mental and bodily pain at the scene or afterward.

Your Testimony

Your account is key to your case. Description of physical and mental suffering and how it affects daily life and well-being is crucial. Your honest and persuasive testimony can illuminate your intangible losses.

Psychological Evaluations

Professional psychological evaluations can support your claim. These examinations can reveal injury-related emotional distress and discomfort. Structured, expert-backed psychological impact perspectives bolster your argument.

Demonstrative Evidence

Photos, films, and accident site reconstructions can show your suffering. A strong visual representation can assist judges and juries in grasping your injuries’ emotional and physical toll.

Does Compensation for These Damages Have Limits in California?

No rule exists in California for calculating pain and suffering compensation. However, lawyers and litigants use the multiplier approach to estimate damages. 

Most personal injury claims in California don’t have a maximum compensation limit for non-economic and economic damages. This regulation has some exceptions.

Medical Malpractice

In medical malpractice cases, there is a limitation on the compensation awarded for non-economic damages. Starting from January 1, 2023, the specified cap stands at:

  • In non-fatality cases, the cap for non-economic damages currently stands at $350,000, with an annual increase of $40,000 until it reaches $750,000.
  • For wrongful death cases, the non-economic damages cap is currently set at $500,000, increasing by $50,000 each year until it reaches a maximum of $1,000,000.

It’s important to be aware that the cap doesn’t come into effect when a healthcare provider has caused you harm through reckless or intentional actions.

Car Accidents

California Civil Code 3333.4 imposes limitations on retrieving non-economic damages in cases of negligence that stem from the operation or use of a motor vehicle. Here are the specifics:

  • DUI offenders are ineligible to claim non-economic damages.
  • Uninsured vehicle owners cannot seek or receive compensation for non-economic damages, except in cases involving drunk drivers.
  • Uninsured drivers are not entitled to recover or receive compensation for non-economic damages, regardless of the circumstances.


According to Civil Code 3333.3, if you were injured while engaged in, or while attempting to escape from, the commission of a felony in California, you are not eligible to claim any damages.

Wrongful Death or Survival

Starting in 2022, when you initiate wrongful death or survival actions in California, you have the opportunity to seek compensation for the pain and suffering endured by the deceased individual.

Are These Damages Taxable in California?

As a general rule, the funds you obtain from a personal injury case are typically not subject to taxation under California or federal regulations. This applies to compensation for both economic and non-economic damages in situations where you experience:

  • physical injury
  • physical sickness

In cases where you experience emotional distress without any accompanying physical injury, it’s important to note that your damage award may be subject to taxation as per the law.

What is California’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims?

According to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1, you have a two-year window, beginning from the date of the accident or incident, to initiate a civil lawsuit to obtain compensation for injuries or fatalities resulting from someone else’s wrongful actions or negligence. 

This rule applies to nearly all imaginable personal injury cases since most are based on the legal concept of “negligence,” a term that is synonymous with “neglect” as referred to in Section 335.1.

What Are the Exceptions to This Statute of Limitations?

In California, specific situations recognized by the law can slow down or temporarily pause the “statute of limitations” clock, which otherwise counts down the two-year deadline established by Section 335.1 for filing a personal injury lawsuit. 

Here are some examples of conditions that often lead to changes in the typical two-year timeframe for initiating a personal injury case in California:

  • When the injured party did not know any facts that would reasonably suggest they were harmed by someone else’s wrongful actions, which is referred to as the “delayed discovery” rule.
  • If the injured individual was under 18 years old or lacked the legal capacity to make decisions, often due to a mental illness, at the time of the accident, as outlined in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 352.
  • In cases where the person responsible for the injury (the defendant) left California after the incident but before the lawsuit could be filed, as stated in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 351.

Our Commitment to Your Well-being and Justice

Understanding “pain and suffering” in a personal injury case is crucial for getting compensation for bodily and psychological distress. It includes apparent and intangible harm from negligence. 

A competent personal injury attorney can help you calculate and establish these damages in this complex legal landscape. If you or a loved one was injured in California by someone else’s negligence, Conlogue Law LLP can help. 

Our experienced personal injury lawyers have a track record of obtaining fair and just recompense for our clients. Help with legal complications. Contact us today for a free consultation to start your healing and justice journey.

Our legal team can also represent you in Vehicular Accidents, Maritime Accidents, Airplane Crash Accidents, and Catastrophic Injuries. Your well-being is our top priority, and we are committed to ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.

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