Pain and suffering is generally the most substantial factor in a personal injury case. There are both physical and mental aspects to pain and suffering. The physical element is typically more obvious than mental suffering in the eyes of the jury. Imagine a slip and fall incident in which a woman, let’s call her Lucy, badly breaks her arm. It is easy enough for members of a jury to see that Lucy experienced physical pain.
There are aspects of physical pain that can be challenging to understand. Chronic back spasms or headaches from a slip and fall can sound made up. Most juries will understand the obvious pain of broken arm, but trying to describe other non-apparent injuries may lead them to believe Lucy is just a whiner. This is a dangerous direction of thinking. The jury may begin placing blame on Lucy rather than having a desire for the defendant to own their responsibility. It is crucial to stop this trend before it takes root. The injuries are very real to Lucy and the incident was not her fault. The defendant violated their duty to have an environment safe of slipping hazards.
Once the plaintiff’s physical pain and the defendant’s negligence have been established, a story begins to develop. At this point the jury has a fairly clear picture of the accident, but we must rewind and give them the “before story”. Lucy worked at her dream job: a highly competitive, high-paying, fast-paced, international business job that involves high email traffic and other tasks that are affected by her injuries. Lucy has a 12 year old daughter. The two of them love to go rock climbing together on the weeks at their local gym.
Lucy’s “after story” begins to change in the eyes of the jurors. Lucy is being pressured to leave her job by people who are picking up her slack. They are making her feel ashamed for not being able to perform her duties the same as she used to. She quits her job to spare herself more embarrassment. Lucy can’t sleep right because she wakes up from her muscle spasms and she is beginning to feel depressed. Her daughter is feeling distant since they aren’t spending time together the way they used to. This “after story” is Lucy’s mental pain and suffering.
When a jury sees or hears someone asking for money to compensate for pain and suffering, they may initially roll their eyes. Once they listen to the story of the person whose life has been drastically changed because of someone else’s negligence then they can connect and sympathize. Now there is a desire for the jury to protect the victim and make her whole again. The jury knows that the establishment where the incident occurred has accepted standards which they did not adhere to. They were negligent and now Lucy’s life will never be the same!
Physical pain creates mental suffering, which is not always easy for an outside observer to understand. Jurors may be quick to blame the victim and assume he or she did something wrong. Once the pieces of the story are assembled, the pain and suffering becomes clear to the jurors. When the jurors see the extent of the damage, they are able to make the defendant responsible for their negligence.