When it comes to pain and suffering, New Jersey laws are unique and specific. As in most states, if someone else’s negligence caused your injury, you may be entitled to a wide variety of damages–from lost wages and medical bills to pain and suffering. Something unique about New Jersey law is that there is no cap on the amount of damages you can recover if you have experienced pain and suffering.
In this article, I’ll help you understand what pain and suffering entails, when you can sue, and how the “no pain and suffering cap” works. If you have further questions for a New Jersey personal injury attorney, don’t hesitate to reach out to Buttafuoco & Associates for a free consultation.
What Qualifies as Pain and Suffering in New Jersey?
There are several types of damages you can recover in a New Jersey lawsuit. The first type is known as economic damages–in other words, any quantifiable expenses you incurred due to your injuries. Economic damages include:
- Medical bills (past and future)
- Physical therapy
- Medication costs
- Cost of in-home care
- Lost wages
- Travel costs to and from appointments
- And more
Many people ask: is pain and suffering separate from medical bills? The answer is yes. Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering, which cannot easily be assigned a dollar amount. What’s interesting is that pain and suffering are two separate categories of non-economic damages. Pain may come and go, and is a specific sensory experience–for example, if you break a bone or sprain an ankle, you will experience pain immediately. Suffering, in contrast, happens over a longer time frame after an injury. Suffering often occurs after a life-changing injury that affects your life permanently–such as loss of enjoyment of life. In both cases, pain and suffering may be physical, but they may also include mental anguish and other emotional harm. Here are some examples of pain and suffering:
- Physical pain
- Emotional and mental anguish or distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life, including reduced quality of life
- Suffering due to disability, impairment
- Suffering due to scars or disfigurement
How do I Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages in New Jersey?
Calculating non-economic damages can be incredibly challenging, and plaintiffs almost always benefit from working with an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney. For starters, you’ll need to provide evidence to prove that you are experiencing pain and/or suffering, such as medical records and bills, personal testimony, test results, and photos of your injuries. For psychological damage, you will need to provide similar documents and records.
Because no two people will experience the same degree or impact of pain and suffering after an injury, damages may be very different depending on the case. The type and severity of your pain and suffering, whether you have become impaired or disabled due to the accident, scars and other disfigurement, and how long it may take you to recover could all be considered.
An attorney with experience will have a good sense of how to assign a dollar value to your experiences.
Is there a Cap on Pain and Suffering Damages?
In the state of New Jersey, there is no limit on how much you can be awarded for pain and suffering. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a jury will make this determination. In theory, a jury can award any dollar amount that they feel is adequate for the type and amount of pain and suffering you are experiencing. But the jury will rely on their own experiences as they decide what amount is acceptable, so it is unlikely that you will receive a settlement that is excessive.
To help the jury best determine how much these damages may be worth, it can be helpful to keep a journal that details your pain level on a daily basis, lists any activities you once participated in but can no longer enjoy or perform, your general emotional state, and how your pain or suffering impacts your relationship with your family or friends.
How do I Sue a Doctor for Pain and Suffering?
In some cases, a medical professional is responsible for pain and suffering incurred after an injury. Many people wonder if they can sue a doctor for pain and suffering, and the answer depends on whether or not you have successfully proven a medical malpractice claim.
If you believe you have experienced medical malpractice, you absolutely have the right to be compensated for economic as well as non-economic damages, but you will need to prove that the doctor was negligent, or failed to deliver the standard of care you were owed as a patient.
You’ll first need to establish that the doctor’s actions caused your injuries, and that your injuries have resulted in pain and/or suffering. Medical professionals must use reasonable care and skill when they treat patients. In other words, doctors must deliver the same level and type of care that a different qualified health professional would provide. If you can prove that a medical professional did not act within these standards, and that this caused your injuries, you may have a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you’re unsure whether or not you have a case that includes non-economic damages, a consultation with an attorney serving Northern New Jersey may be helpful. At Buttafuoco & Associates, we offer free consultations and can explain your rights, whether or not you have a case, and how best to move forward. We have been representing clients in personal injury cases and helping them recover non-economic damages for decades; we may be able to help you as well.
If you would like to know more about whether you have a pain and suffering case, get in touch today at 1-800-NOW-HURT.