What Qualifies as “Pain & Suffering” in a Personal Injury Case?

May 5, 2022 | Ed Bernstein
What Qualifies as “Pain & Suffering” in a Personal Injury Case? A man rubs his neck after a car accident because of his pain and suffering As an experienced Personal Injury law firm, we see many cases that involve severe pain and suffering. What most people don’t realize is that pain and suffering encompasses more than typical aches and pains from an accident. Mental anguish, emotional agony, and physical pain and suffering are all common symptoms our clients deal with after accidents of all types. Keep reading to learn more about what qualifies as pain and suffering in personal injury cases.

Types of Pain and Suffering

After an injury accident (whether it’s a worker’s compensation accident, dangerous drug case, car accident, motorcycle accident, wrongful death, or any other personal injury category), besides the physical injury, most people experience some type of physical pain and suffering, mental pain and suffering, and emotional pain and suffering. Let’s break down what each type of pain and suffering entails.

Physical Pain & Suffering

As the name suggests, physical pain and suffering refers to physical pain that a person experiences as a result of being injured in an accident. This not only includes the injuries, pain, and discomfort they’ve endured to date but also includes future pain and suffering that they will likely suffer in the upcoming months or even years.

Mental Pain & Suffering

Mental pain and suffering still stem from the physical injuries sustained in the accident, but refer to the mental effects that the injury has on the client. This may include mental anguish, fear and anxiety, humiliation, and the emotional impact of no longer being able to enjoy things the plaintiff used to love doing, due to the defendant’s negligence that caused the accident. Any negative emotions that accident victims suffer as a result of the physical pain and trauma of the accident are generally referred to as mental pain and suffering. The most severe forms of mental pain and suffering may include:
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Problems sleeping, including sleeping too much
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Fear of leaving the house or returning to work, getting back in the car, or returning to the scene of the accident
Similar to physical pain and suffering, mental pain and suffering include the mental hardships the plaintiff is currently going through in addition to what they will likely suffer in the future.

Emotional Pain & Suffering

Emotional pain and suffering are similar to mental pain and suffering in that it includes fear, anxiety, and mental and emotional conditions that stem from an accident. For example, many people will experience emotional distress from car accidents that may develop into an intense fear of driving, riding in a car, or even being in a parking lot. This emotional pain and suffering can manifest in all areas of life, making it impossible for the client to return to their job, pick their kids up from school, or do any of the daily activities they could perform without issue before the accident. Often, people dealing with emotional pain and suffering feel isolated and become even more depressed and lonely, so their emotional pain and suffering continues to intensify.

An Example of Pain & Suffering

This example shows how one accident can lead to all three types of pain and suffering: physical, mental, and emotional: George is driving to work one Monday morning when city bus driver Marcia runs a stop sign and t-bones his vehicle. As a result of the bus colliding straight into George’s car at a high speed, he is rushed to the hospital with several broken bones and a severe concussion. In addition to a lengthy stay in the hospital, George has to undergo months of physical therapy and has to stop his favorite hobby of horseback riding. Since George’s accident was so severe, the effects far surpass the physical pain and suffering — although that is also intense. After two weeks in the hospital, George becomes increasingly angry that this happened to him. He can’t sleep, and he’s extremely anxious all of the time. He starts having nightmares about not being able to pay his hospital bills and losing his home since he has been unable to return to work while in the hospital. He misses his wife and kids and wonders why such a horrible thing happened to him. George feels utterly hopeless. Once George is finally released from the hospital, it doesn’t end there as he has to undergo nine months of intense and grueling physical therapy. While his bones heal, he can’t relieve any stress doing his favorite activities, including visiting his precious horse. He can’t even attend his daughter’s t-ball games because he has physical therapy. George feels increasingly depressed and that the accident has overtaken his entire life. He starts to lose all motivation to get out of bed because he doesn’t see a point. Once George is cleared to go back to work, he starts to become more and more anxious about getting in the car and driving the same road that he took on the day of the accident. He starts having night tremors and intense nightmares reliving the accident as his date to return to work gets closer.  On the morning of his return to work — after a sleepless night — he musters up the courage to get into his car. Two minutes down the road, George spots a city bus and starts having a full-blown panic attack. He pulls over and starts sobbing. Even though his physical injuries have healed, his mental anguish from the accident has overtaken every area of his life. George was looking forward to finally getting back into his daily routine, but now he fears he will never be able to drive without having a panic attack again.

Getting the Right Help

Personal injury accidents can cause severe physical, mental, and emotional pain and suffering. This is why you need to find an experienced attorney who will ensure you get the compensation you deserve. No matter the cause of your injury, the lawyers at Ed Bernstein & Associates can help you. We are one of the largest and most experienced personal injury teams in Las Vegas. Contact us to get started on your personal injury case right away.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.