General damages are those sorts of damages that are non-monetary in nature, meaning that they do not flow from an expense or actual monetary loss. It is a person’s pain and suffering, both physical and mental, that in turn causes them to suffer a diminished quality of life. However, for there to be a claim for emotional pain and suffering, as opposed to physical pain and suffering, there must be an actual physical injury caused from the same injury incident. This is rarely an issue as there is seldom one without the other. And, in cases where the physical pain is significant and long-lasting, this can have devastating emotional effects.
As for physical injuries, most car wreck victims suffer some amount of neck and back injury. With physical injury there is also pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. All of this affects the ability to function in varying degrees. Neck and back injuries typically limit a person’s ability to lift objects, pull and push things. These same injuries also tend to cause pain and discomfort during prolonged periods of sitting and standing.
Activities that an injury victim once did without thought often prove to be difficult and cumbersome, if not entirely prohibitive. From the moment an injured person wakes in the morning to the moment they go to bed, they are reminded of their injuries and painful limitations. For instance, simple tasks like bathing and getting dressed can be quite difficult. Likewise, most household tasks are often difficult, if not painfully prohibitive. Then, at the end of the day, getting a good night’s sleep is difficult, leading to increased mental and physical fatigue.
Having to endure this day after day is exhausting, physically and emotionally. Often the emotional turmoil is commensurate with the physical injuries and their limitations. It is not uncommon for people to become clinically depressed as they find their lives turned upside down. This is particularly troublesome with permanent and long-lasting injuries.
When our Duluth car accident lawyers seek to prove these non-economic damages, largely rooted in pain and suffering and diminished quality of life, a bill or receipt is probably not the sort of evidence we would ordinarily use to support this general damage element. This is because these sorts of general damages are completely subjective and based upon what each individual injury victim suffers from the wreck or injury incident.
Medical bills can however perhaps provide some context as to the magnitude of a person’s pain and suffering. For instance, if someone has sizable medical bills, many jurors will likely make the connection that the pain and suffering was commensurate with those bills. This is because as the bills increase, this tends to be indicative of more serious injuries. From this, most jurors would probably infer that the person must have suffered greater pain and suffering than someone with less serious injuries and less expensive medical bills.
However, this may not always be the case. In fact, evidence of medical bills may cause a jury to return a verdict for pain and suffering lower than what they might have otherwise found. This may seem counterintuitive, but medical bills can in some instances serve to “anchor” the jury’s total verdict to an amount close to the billed amount with general damages (pain and suffering) being some fraction of this. Depending upon the case, this may or may not be an accurate reflection of the injured person’s pain and suffering. In fact, in some cases, it may be substantially less.
So, in those cases where the medical bills do not offer a meaningful measure of an injury victim’s pain and suffering, it may be wise to forgo those special damages altogether. This can be a difficult decision because juries are inclined to compensate a victim for their medical expenses. However, in the right case, this approach can yield a larger overall verdict with the focus on the general damages of pain and suffering and diminished quality of life.
The decision here will depend upon the unique facts of each case and personal characteristics of each injury victim. An experienced Duluth car accident lawyer will be able to prove your emotional trauma, pain, and mental anguish so you get the proper compensation to cover your care and suffering.