What is the Difference Between Past Pain and Suffering and Future Pain and Suffering?

May 31, 2023 – Paul Hammack

South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers | Hammack Law Firm | Call 864-326-3333

Greenville Car Accident Lawyer Explains the Difference Between Past Pain and Suffering and Future Pain and Suffering

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries or accidental deaths in the United States. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year in the United States, approximately 43,000 people are wrongfully killed, and nearly 2.5 million are injured in traffic accidents. Our experienced Greenville car accident lawyers know that victims injured in motor vehicle accidents may sustain many types of personal injuries, including brain injuries, broken bones, and other bodily harm. When it comes to obtaining compensation for these personal injuries, South Carolina law creates an important difference between past pain and suffering and future pain and suffering.

Since pain and suffering is often the largest component in awarding victims and their families compensation for a car accident, you need a skilled and experienced car accident lawyer in Greenville, South Carolina, to fight to obtain the maximum compensation you may be entitled to. Here at The Hammack Law Firm, our compassionate and knowledgeable staff will work with your treating physicians, leading experts, law enforcement, and other individuals who may be able to help value your case. We will not let insurance adjusters and defense lawyers use decades-old hacks to lower what you may be entitled to. Fight back with our bodily injury law firm, and get what you deserve after a negligent defendant harms you.

What are Damages in a Car Accident Case?

Although pain and suffering is typically the largest component of a car accident claim, let’s rewind to what that pain and suffering is actually considered under the law. Specifically, a party to a lawsuit (you, the injured party known as the plaintiff) and the defendant (the other guy who was negligent, reckless, or otherwise caused your injuries) can obtain relief, known as “damages.”

The term damages is broad and encompasses many different things in a lawsuit. Damages may be getting your puppy back in a replevin case, a declaration that you don’t have to pay HOA fees in a declaratory judgment action, or money in many different types of cases – like personal injury cases. In fact, the compensation in car accidents, slip and falls, and other personal injury cases are almost exclusively based on money.

But before you say, “Show me the money,” you must ask for it. And the law, like many things, makes asking for money a little complicated. That’s because there are many different types of damages that may entitle you to money in a car accident case.

Two Types of Money Damages

South Carolina law breaks down money damages into two components. The first is economic damages, which are losses that can be reasonably calculated. Think medical bills, lost wages, repairman bills, reimbursement for property damage (like the Pokemon cards damaged in a crash), and other bills that you can add up and shove over to the defendant’s insurance adjuster.

The second, noneconomic damage, is not so easily calculated. These are damages that cannot be computed through basic math principles. Rather, noneconomic damages often require objective and subjective proof, which is then measured against what others with similar cases have recovered.

And as you have probably guessed, pain and suffering is the largest component of noneconomic damages.

Understanding Pain and Suffering Under South Carolina Law

Pain and suffering is the largest component in most car accident cases and often the most complicated to calculate. In its most general sense, pain and suffering is what a victim experiences for personal injuries, such as physical pain, agony, discomfort, trauma, emotional pain, anguish, and the overall feelings of the injury. That means the pains, aches, discomfort, and other agony associated with your injury can be compensated.

Generally, the more significant your pain (i.e., brain injury, spinal cord injury, paper cuts), the more compensation you may be entitled to under South Carolina law. But it is important to realize that “pain” is not taken in a literal sense and encompasses more than just hurt. For instance, victims who have been completely paralyzed (and feel nothing) also have extreme pain and suffering from their injuries.

Further, because the law wants to make it a little more complicated, there are two types of pain and suffering. The first is past pain and suffering, and the second is future pain and suffering. Both are very different and can affect your recovery in many ways.

What is the Difference Between Past Pain and Suffering and Future Pain and Suffering?

Both past and future pain and suffering involve that same pain, agony, mental distress, suffering, discomfort, and other anguish. But these two types of suffering are measured by different time periods, which can significantly affect what you may be entitled to.

Past Pain and Suffering

This type of pain and suffering is measured from the date of your injuries (often the accident date) to the date you recover. That recovery is when the defendant, insurance carrier, or defense lawyer pays you either in a settlement, arbitration, or when a jury tells them they are wrong and pay up in a verdict.

Thus, this award of noneconomic damages is finite. That’s because we know when the accident occurred and when the defendant is paying. We then take objective proof of your injuries, such as medical reports, imaging studies, or even testimony from a doctor, independent medical examiner, or other people who have observed your difficulties following the accident, and consider it along with the subjective proof, what you say you have experienced. The subjective component is critical, too, because not everyone feels the same level of pain for the same injury.

Finally, the objective and subjective proof is weighed to determine what the amount of compensation should be. That means comparing this case with other cases that have resulted in compensation for similar injuries to similarly-situated plaintiffs.

Future Pain and Suffering

In contrast, future pain and suffering is the period of the rest of your life from the date of your recovery. Your life is determined pursuant to an actuary table and the average life expectancy for a male or female. However, if you have suffered catastrophic personal injuries affecting your life expectancy, expert testimony may be called to adjust this number.

Unlike past pain and suffering, the future is not finite or known. We cannot look at what has been done and just value it. Rather, we must determine what pain and suffering is likely to continue and how it should be valued for the rest of your life. Therefore, in order to recover compensation for future pain and suffering, damages must be reasonably proven.

For instance, an individual with a knee replacement will likely need a new one in 15-20 years. If the victim is only 30 years old at the time of the knee replacement and therefore has about 43 years left on an actuary chart, it means they will undergo at least two more knee replacements. That means future pain and suffering must account for these two knee surgeries. Whereas in contrast, the prior knee surgery is past pain and suffering.

Other future pain and suffering considerations include:

  • Arthritis risks
  • Scarring pain
  • Loss of enjoyment of life or activities
  • Weakness or range of motion restrictions
  • Disfigurement
  • Need for nursing care
  • Medication costs
  • Future surgeries
  • Medical devices, and
  • Other injuries, pain, agony, anguish, trauma, or suffering that will likely occur in the future.

Still Not Sure of the Difference Between Past Pain and Suffering and Future Pain and Suffering? Ask Our Greenville Car Accident Lawyers for Help

If you have suffered any type of pain and suffering after a motor vehicle accident or another type of personal injury accident in South Carolina, call an experienced car accident lawyer in Greenville like one of ours at The Hammack Law Firm. We offer victims and their families FREE case evaluations to learn more about their legal rights to compensation. To schedule your free consultation, contact us today by dialing (864) 428-7591 or visiting our website here.

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(864) 326-3333

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