When Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering?

Personal injury cases tend to focus on physical injuries and monetary losses caused by the accident. However, pain and suffering is an important part of being fully compensated for your injuries.

“Pain and suffering” puts a monetary value on the past, present, and future physical distress in a personal injury case. There is no hard-and-fast rule of when you can sue for pain and suffering, but pain and suffering damages are typically awarded when the plaintiff suffered a severe physical injury that causes physical or mental pain for a period of time afterward. For example, if you suffered a severely broken leg in a car accident, followed by chronic leg pain and difficulty engaging in normal activities, you could have a good chance of collecting pain and suffering damages.

Pain and suffering damages can apply in a number of injury scenarios, including:

  • Nerve or joint pain from whiplash
  • Emotional pain resulting from trauma
  • Nerve damage from a faulty surgical procedure
  • Intense grief over the loss of a loved one

Damage awards for pain and suffering can vary greatly, depending on the circumstances of your case. If your personal injury claim makes it to court, a jury will consider several factors in its deliberation, including:


  • The age of the injured person. A jury is likely to award more pain and suffering damages to a younger person, who will have to deal with this pain for the rest of their lives.
  • The type of injury. Injuries that cause physical pain will generally result in larger damage awards. Severe injuries that can have a grave impact on your day-to-day life, such as a brain injury, also result in larger pain and suffering awards.
  • How the injured person is affected. This includes evaluating how the past, present, and future pain affects the victim, including the likelihood of future pain.



You can recover pain and suffering damages for non-physical injuries, but know that the process can be much more difficult. If you suffered only emotional damages, pain and suffering awards are typically not awarded unless the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious. However, this is not to say it’s impossible; every case is unique and comes with a unique set of circumstances.

Pain and suffering is intangible, which makes it difficult to prove in certain cases. It is important for your attorney to consult an expert medical witness of psychological expert who can testify about your emotional and physical pain. It can also help your pain and suffering claim if you:

  • Make a log of your injuries before and after the accident; this will help you prove what pain and suffering is related to the accident.
  • Keep all written documents, including police reports, bills, medical receipts, and other documents that can be used for evidence
  • Be as specific as possible when describing your injuries (whether you’re in court, in settlement negotiations, or just talking to your lawyer)