Traffic collisions are among the leading causes of serious injuries in our region. According to the Tennessee Department of Public Safety & Homeland Security, there are approximately 200,000 crashes reported in the state each year. After an accident, injured victims need a settlement that pays their medical bills, covers lost paychecks, and compensates pain and suffering.
This raises an important question: How do you calculate pain and suffering compensation after a car accident? The short answer is that there is no one specific formula—pain and suffering compensation will always depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Here, our Knoxville auto accident lawyer provides a guide to pain and suffering damages and car crashes in Tennessee.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
As a starting point, it is important to define what pain and suffering actually means under Tennessee state law. The Cornell Legal Information Institute offers the following definition for ‘pain and suffering’:”the physical discomfort and emotional distress that are compensable as noneconomic damages.” In other words, it is a comprehensive term used to describe the physical and psychological toll that your body and your mind must endure in the aftermath of an accident.
How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated?
Pain and suffering is one of the primary types of ‘non-economic’ damages that can be recovered in a car accident claim or other personal injury claim. By their very nature, non-economic damages are difficult to put a precise dollar figure on. With economic damage—vehicle repairs, medical bills, lost wages, etc.—you often have clear financial records to refer to as the basis for the compensation claim. In contrast, with pain and suffering, there is no document to refer to for a clear valuation.
For this reason, pain and suffering is often calculated as a ‘multiple’ of actual economic damages.
As an example, imagine that you suffered $10,000 in medical bills and $5,000 in lost wages in a car accident ($15,000 in total damages). Your pain and suffering might be valued at a multiple of ‘2’—meaning you could seek an additional $30,000 to compensate for your pain and suffering. What multiplier is appropriate depends entirely on the severity of the pain and suffering you endured in the accident. To maximize pain and suffering compensation, car accident victims in Tennessee should be prepared to present a strong and compelling legal case.
Tennessee Law: Statutory Cap On Non-Economic Damages In Most Personal Injury Cases
Tennessee is one of several U.S. states that has a hard statutory cap on pain and suffering damages in most personal injury claims. Under Tennessee law (TN Code § 29-39-102) “compensation for any noneconomic damages suffered by each injured plaintiff [is] not to exceed seven hundred fifty thousand dollars ($750,000).”
Notably, pain and suffering is not the only type of non-economic damage that can be sought in a personal injury lawsuit. You can also claim compensation for other types of intangible losses, such as for scarring or permanent physical impairment. Collectively, your non-economic compensation generally is capped at $750,000.
What Comparative Fault Means For Your Car Accident Compensation
Your ability to recover financial compensation for pain and suffering is contingent on proving liability. Tennessee is a fault-based car accident state. To hold another driver responsible for your losses, including your pain and suffering damages, you must establish that their negligence caused your crash. Without liability, you will not be in a position to get the compensation you deserve.
Tennessee operates under a comparative negligence legal standard. Each party to a motor vehicle crash will be held liable for their share. If you are found partially at fault, your compensation will be reduced accordingly. For instance, imagine that you suffered $20,000 worth of pain and suffering in a car accident. However, you were deemed 25 percent at fault for the crash. Under Tennessee law, your recovery would be reduced by 25 percent, down to $15,000 for your pain and suffering.
Call Our East Tennessee Auto Accident Injury Attorneys Today
At The Barnes Law Firm, our Knoxville car crash lawyers fight aggressively to get justice and the maximum available financial compensation for victims and families. If you have any specific questions about pain and suffering compensation, we are available to help. For a no cost, no commitment initial consultation, please contact us today. From our office location in Knoxville, we represent injured victims throughout East Tennessee, including in Pigeon Force, Oak Ridge, Sevierville, Lenoir City, Maryville, and Gatlinburg.