The term Pain and Suffering refers to the unique consequences that occur when a person is seriously injured, usually due to medical malpractice or in a personal injury case. Pain is the physical sensation caused by the injury. Suffering is the emotional anguish a person feels after being injured, especially through no fault of their own. Suffering includes distress at not knowing how long they will be in pain, whether or not the pain is ever going to end, what that pain may signify, and the loss of previous abilities. Suffering also includes the loss of hope for a better tomorrow, the end of dreams, and the inability to enjoy the liberties of life.
Pain and suffering damages can be awarded to individuals suffering from disfigurement, discomfort, embarrassment, humiliation, or not being able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. But unlike a hospital or auto repair bill, none of these conditions has a specific dollar amount attached to it. Nevertheless, individuals can and should be compensated.
Consider the following examples:
Cervical Cancer Misdiagnosis: After regular annual pap smears, a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer. Research into her illness shows that evidence of precancerous cells has been present in those pap smears, but went unrecognized by the medical professionals that reviewed them. Now she has cancer, and an increased probability of dying. Not only does she feel the pain associated with cancer and treatment, but she suffers knowing that had her cancer been properly diagnosed before it fully developed, her future death from the spread of the disease may have been prevented.
Personal Injury: A man who loves to run is struck by a car. The man sustains injuries that cause physical pain, such as a broken leg, and skin abrasions from hitting the ground. His physical injuries heal, but he is no longer able to run. He suffers from the loss of his beloved pastime, his chosen form of exercise, and begins to lose his fitness and gain weight, losing both self-esteem and health in the process.
Medical Malpractice: A retiree, enjoying the freedom to garden, read, cook, and participate in his or her favorite hobbies goes into the doctor for a routine procedure and due to a medication error is rendered blind, and can no longer care for one’s self or enjoy the simple pleasures of life. While there may not be any pain from the injury, suffering is to be expected from the loss of independence and ability to do all those things which made life worth living.
The people in these examples may be awarded financial compensation for pain and suffering. In Pennsylvania, the amount to be paid is strictly up to the jury. Lawyers representing victims of medical malpractice or personal injury in Pennsylvania cannot suggest to the jury how much should be awarded. The jury must decide based on the evidence presented in the courtroom and award a sum they believe will make the victim whole.