Injuries caused by catastrophic accidents burden survivors and victims with long-term hardship. Medical costs turn into medical debt, injuries turn into chronic pain, and a one-time injury turns into a lifetime of lowered income and financial instability. The good news is that personal injury lawsuits can cover many of these hardships by claiming economic damages, i.e., the cost of past and future medical treatment and the cost of lost time at work.
However, what happens when such costs don’t adequately describe what you’ve actually lost?
How do medical costs make up for robbing you of the ability to play with your children?
To hold a conversation?
To move without pain?
In these cases, Florida law allows plaintiffs to claim noneconomic damages, sometimes referred to as “pain and suffering” damages.
What Are Noneconomic Damages?
Noneconomic damages are losses suffered by an accident victim that cannot be quantified. Unlike medical costs or lost earnings, there’s no way to measure the actual dollar value of permanent disfigurement or emotional distress. In most cases, a jury will be asked to use their best judgment to award an amount of money that will fairly and adequately compensate the victim for their losses, including pain and suffering. Therefore, the amount awarded can vary by a wide margin.
When awarding noneconomic damages, juries often consider:
- The severity of the accident or injury
- The injury’s potential to have a lasting effect on the plaintiff
- The impact the injury will cause on the victim’s relationships with family
While no one can predict the amount you win in court, noneconomic damages have no cap in Florida. Because of this, noneconomic damages usually far outstrip economic ones.
In Florida, noneconomic damages can only be applied to cases involving:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life
Family members of the victim may also have claims for their losses as well.
Can You Sue For Pain & Suffering in Florida?
In Florida, you can indeed sue for pain and suffering as part of a personal injury lawsuit. As a type of noneconomic damage, pain and suffering compensates you for the physical discomfort, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other subjective harms you've experienced due to the accident.
Calculating Pain and Suffering
Unlike economic damages such as medical bills or lost wages, there's no exact formula to calculate pain and suffering. Each case is unique, and the amount awarded for pain and suffering will depend on factors such as the severity of the injury, the extent of physical pain or mental anguish, and how the injury has affected your quality of life. Evidence such as medical records, psychological evaluations, and personal testimony can be used to support your claim for pain and suffering.
Florida's No-Fault Insurance System and Pain and Suffering
Florida's no-fault auto insurance system can complicate the ability to sue for pain and suffering after a car accident. Under this system, each driver's own insurance is meant to cover their medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. However, you can step outside the no-fault system and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for pain and suffering if your injuries meet a certain threshold—namely, if they are considered "permanent," result in significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, or significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
If you or a loved one have been in a life-altering accident, speak with Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. to learn if you’d be able to claim noneconomic damages. Discuss your options with us in a free consultation at (305) 770-6335.