When you're experiencing health problems that could be linked to exposure to asbestos, it isn't always easy to understand the scope of your harm (actual and potential). For one thing, the full picture of your health issues might not be clear right away, and the causal link between those issues and the potential liability of an employer or asbestos manufacturer isn't always immediately obvious. Another challenge involves capturing more subjective types of harm ("damages"), including "pain and suffering." How are non-financial losses like these defined, and how are they calculated in an asbestos-mesothelioma lawsuit?
In any kind of personal injury case where the person filing the lawsuit (the plaintiff) is claiming to have suffered physical harm, "pain and suffering" is usually a category of the plaintiff's "damages" (which are losses suffered as a result of the at-fault party's negligence or other wrongdoing). Specifically, pain and suffering is a component of non-economic damages in these kinds of cases.
While some forms of pain and suffering are just what the term indicates (physical pain and discomfort), the concept typically captures a wide range of impacts, from the physical effects of the underlying harm to the more mental and emotional.
So, in the context of an asbestos-mesothelioma case, different kinds of pain and suffering might include:
These kinds of losses are more difficult to quantify when compared with economic damages (which include medical bills, lost income, and other out-of-pocket financial impacts). While it's fairly easy to look at an itemized medical bill or pay stub and arrive at a dollar figure, people experience pain and its different impacts in different ways, especially when it comes to the psychological side of things. One mesothelioma patient's mild anxiety might be another patient's devastation. So it's not hard to see that the way pain and suffering is defined from case to case—and how these damages are calculated―is much more subjective than it is formulaic.
Get more background information on pain and suffering in an injury-related lawsuit.
Whether it's part of settling an asbestos case or anticipating what a jury will do, there is no simple method or formula for figuring out the plaintiff's "pain and suffering" damages.
In a rough sense, "pain and suffering" and other non-economic damages are sometimes calculated in direct relation to the plaintiff's economic damages, sometimes with the use of a so-called "multiplier" (of between 1.5 and 4) that is based on the seriousness of the plaintiff's health problems, the certainty of the defendant's liability, and other factors. For example, let's say an asbestos plaintiff's medical bills and lost income add up to $125,000, and a "pain and suffering" multiplier of 2 is used because some of the plaintiff's health problems aren't obviously attributable to asbestos exposure. In that case, the plaintiff's "pain and suffering" damages are $250,000 (the $125,000 economic damages multiplied by 2).
It's important to keep in mind that the use of a multiplier and other calculation methods are just a starting point when it comes to figuring out pain and suffering, especially when injuries are significant and the plaintiff's experience is unique. And if your asbestos lawsuit makes it all the way to trial, one of the biggest determinants of the value of your pain and suffering damages is you—specifically, your own ability to serve as a good witness and effectively communicate to the judge and jury exactly how your asbestos-related health problems have affected you.