We’ve written before on the concept of pain and suffering damages, but in the wake of some new changes to Georgia’s standard jury instructions on this very subject, the topic is one worth re-visiting. One of the most frequent questions we get from prospective clients is “How much is my pain and suffering worth?” The short answer to that question is your typical lawyer answer- it depends. There is no easy answer to that question because every case is different.
The standard instruction in Georgia for evaluating how much to award for pain and suffering is “the enlightened conscience of fair and impartial jurors.” Western, etc. Railroad Co. v. Young, 83 Ga. 663 (1989). This sound like a bunch of legal jargon, but all that really means is that there is no set formula for determining how much a given plaintiff’s pain and suffering damages are worth. It is entirely up to the jury’s determination given the facts of the particular case they have just heard.
Fortunately, some recent amendments to the Suggested Pattern Civil Jury Charges adopted by the Georgia Council of Superior Court Judges has given some clarity for jurors hearing personal injury cases and considering how much to award for pain and suffering. The new jury instruction reads that “[i]n evaluating the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, you may consider the following factors, if proven:
(1) interference with normal living;
(2) interference with enjoyment;
(3) loss of capacity to labor and earn money;
(4) impairment of bodily health and vigor;
(5) fear of extent of injury;
(6) shock of impact;
(7) actual pain and suffering, past and future;
(8) mental anguish, past and future; and
(9) extent to which plaintiff must limit activities.”
Food Lion v. Williams, 219 Ga. 352 (1995).
Based on these factors, then, we can generally conclude that the greater the toll an incident has taken on a plaintiff’s life, the more they would be entitled to claim for pain and suffering damages. Of course, this list of factors still doesn’t provide a formula for calculating these damages (suggestions for these kinds of calculations is often up to lawyers in delivering closing arguments), but they are helpful in establishing some guidelines to assist a jury’s deliberations.