How Is Pain And Suffering Calculated In Oklahoma?
The phrase “pain and suffering” has been bandied about on television legal dramas for years, but it is a legal term that is often used in civil lawsuits. If you’ve been injured or harmed in an accident, this article will explain what types of damages you may be entitled to, and how pain and suffering in particular is calculated in Oklahoma. This knowledge can help you decide how to move forward with your case and ensure you get the right legal representation.
What are you awarded if you win a lawsuit?
When a plaintiff wins an injury suit, they are awarded damages. In plain terms, damages are money the defendant owes the plaintiff to make things right—this is the legal world’s solution to the real-life costs and consequences of one person injuring another.
The judge or jury for the case determines what the amount of damages will be—the goal is to make the plaintiff “whole” for any losses, which can be financial or emotional. As you can imagine, the amount of damages can vary widely and depends not only on the details of the case, but the State where it’s litigated.
What are the different types of damages?
There are two basic categories of damages:
1) Compensatory: Money compensation the plaintiff receives for economic and non-economic losses due to an accident or injury that was caused by the defendant’s negligence, even if it was unintentional.
2) Punitive: Money compensation meant to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior, such as willful, malicious, or fraudulent actions that harmed someone else. This type of damage is not as common as compensatory, and not always included in lawsuits. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter the defendant and others from behaving in that way again and to make an example of them to others in the community to deter similar conduct.
For the purposes of this article and explaining how to calculate pain and suffering, we’ll just focus on the first category: compensatory damages.
What are economic vs. non-economic damages?
Compensatory damages are usually divided into economic and noneconomic losses.
Economic losses or damages are defined as specific and direct financial losses due to an injury, accident, or bodily harm of some type. These losses are typically the easiest type of damages to prove because they are tangible. Common economic damages include:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Hospital bills
- Medication costs
- Therapy or rehabilitation costs
- Future costs of care due to permanent injuries or disability
- Funeral expenses
- Property damage
Noneconomic damages are the losses that cannot be tied to a specific financial amount—there is no invoice or receipt for them. These include:
- Physical Pain and suffering, both past and future
- Disfigurement such as scarring or loss of a limb
- Mental anguish, both past and future
- If injury is to a spouse, child, or parent, the family member affected may have damages that include the loss of society, consortium, companionship, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, and education
- Any other intangible loss unique to the facts of the case.
Legal Limitations and Proof of Damages
In Oklahoma, there is no limitation on economic or non-economic loss compensation. In short, the plaintiff may seek any amount in damages and the potential awarded amount will not be capped. That being said, plaintiffs must present sufficient evidence of damages to the judge and jury to prove the amount of damages they are seeking is reasonable. This would include bills, receipts, and estimates for economic losses. For non-economic losses, court testimony from witnesses is often used. Such witnesses could include:
- Eyewitnesses at the scene of the incident
- Health care providers who treated or are treating the injured person
- The injured person who is seeking compensation
- The injured person’s family members, friends, or co-workers who witnessed the pain and suffering or mental anguish
How is pain and suffering calculated in Oklahoma?
The short answer is there is no formula you can punch into a calculator. Pain and suffering—as well as mental anguish, disfigurement, and other noneconomic losses—is subjective. Each case is unique and everyone suffers differently, so placing a value on pain and suffering is difficult.
But that doesn't mean calculating pain and suffering is impossible. Lawyers and judges use the facts and circumstances of your case to estimate the damages. Legal professionals and insurance companies also refer to case precedent to determine the value of pain and suffering—they know the past and average jury awards for your type of case and will use those as a baseline.
What factors are considered when calculating pain and suffering damages?
There are certain factors that will typically increase your award compensation for pain and suffering damages. These include, but are not limited to:
- Severe, catastrophic injuries
- Permanent disabilities
- Disfigurement or scarring
- Unusually high financial losses
- Unusually high pain levels
- Mental or emotional disorders (PTSD, depression, anxiety)
- Cannot return to work
- Cannot return to normal activities (playing with kids, sports, etc.)
There is one significant factor that is not related to the injury but will affect the amount a judge or jury may award you: The conduct of the at-fault person who caused the injury. Egregious conduct that caused the injury will at time influence the amount of the damages non-economic damages.
Are there factors that can reduce the amount of pain and suffering?
Yes. The amount of pain and suffering you might be entitled to if you failed to get the necessary medical care and attention for your injuries and made the injuries and pain worse. That is called a failure to mitigate your injuries and damages.
Also, your damages overall might be reduced if you are partially at fault for causing your own injuries. Under certain circumstances, a judge or jury might apportion a percentage of fault to you. In those cases, the total amount you are awarded in damages will be discounted or reduced by your percentage of fault. Under Oklahoma law, if you are more than 50% at fault, you are not entitled to collect any money for your injuries and damages. This is called the modified comparative negligence standard in Oklahoma law.
How can GT Law Firm help?
State laws are always changing and new rulings, at both the state and federal levels, can affect your case. Having an experienced lawyer on your side who can confidently guide you through the process and ensure your case is handled properly can make a big difference in the amount of damages you receive. We aid and advocate for our clients in many ways, but generally we:
- Evaluate your case for free
- Give straightforward answers to your legal questions
- Offer expert knowledge of Oklahoma law and statutes
- Advise you on all your legal options
- Develop a legal strategy with the best chance of success
- Calculate your economic and noneconomic damages
- Handle all administrative details and communications associated with your case
- Lead the investigation of your case
- Negotiate settlements
- Represent you in court (if needed)
GT Law Firm has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury cases. We know the Oklahoma court system inside and out, and have built respectful relationships with the other lawyers and judges across our state. We can help you and your family get the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free case evaluation.
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