How can you put a price on pain? Juries in medical malpractice lawsuits and personal injury accidents are often required to put a dollar value on the pain and suffering an injury victim has to deal with after an accident. Calculating pain damages can be difficult, especially when the pain and suffering are chronic or will affect the injury victim for life.
The Price of Pain in an Injury Accident
In a personal injury lawsuit, the injury victim seeks compensation for their losses. This includes more than just medical bills and lost wages. Damages in a personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit can include non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include non-pecuniary (not financial) losses, like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
How does an injury victim estimate the losses associated with pain? Pain can involve a temporary response to an injury, like a cut or broken bone. However, pain can also be chronic or even get worse over time. Anyone living with chronic pain understands that the damage done to their body and mind is not something that can just be covered up with painkillers.
For example, neck injuries after a car accident can cause radiating pain and limited motion. Even with medication that numbs the pain, the victim may be unable to participate in normal activities. Many pain medications have an impairing effect, which makes it dangerous to drive. A person on heavy painkillers may not be able to play sports, go to the grocery store, or even care for their child because of the effects of opioids or other medications. The price of pain should include more than just the physical response because pain has a mental, emotional, and social cost.
Concept of Pain Over Time
In a post on Johns Hopkins University Press, The Value of Pain?, the author discusses how our conception of pain has changed over time. The writer is Anna Lembke, M.D., chief of addiction medicine and assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. There are 3 ways Dr. Lembke finds pain has changed over time.
- Before the 1900s, pain was the short-term response to an injury and there was no understanding of “chronic pain.” Now, we understand chronic pain to be a serious condition and is the primary cause of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims.
- Pain during surgery used to be considered beneficial, by boosting immune function and speeding up the healing process. Now, pain management in surgery, through anesthesia and analgesia can provide pain relief and a more stable operating environment for surgeons.
- Pain is now understood to have a mental aspect, which can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other pain syndromes.
Along with the changing concept of pain, the author claims the interest in reducing pain and suffering may be encouraging the opioid crisis, with doctors overprescribing opioids to relieve all pain as the goal of treatment.
Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
The medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian represent victims of accidents and medical errors. To discuss your case with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today.
About the Author