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One component of any personal injury case is “general damages”, which is more commonly known as “pain and suffering”.  According to the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions, a plaintiff may make a claim for past and future physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation, emotional distress, and the like.  See CACI 3905A.

There is no fixed standard for determining the amount a plaintiff should be compensated for the pain and suffering experienced. Id. Nor is there a requirement that a plaintiff have suffered monetary or financial loss in order to recover for “pain and suffering”.  See Duarte v. Zachariah (1994) 22 Cal. App. 4th 1652, 1664-1665.

So how can a plaintiff prove “pain and suffering”?  One mechanism is through the testimony of the plaintiff, whereby the plaintiff under questioning describes the feelings experienced.  “The law in this state is that the testimony of a single person, including the plaintiff, may be sufficient to support an award of emotional distress damages.”  Knutson v. Foster (2018) 25 Cal. App. 5th 1075, 1096.

One of the most helpful ways to support a plaintiff’s testimony about “pain and suffering” is through the use of evidence demonstrating the injuries.  While this can include testimony of medical providers and reference to complaints of pain documented in medical records, some of the most powerful evidence comes from photographs of the visible signs of physical injuries.  This can includes pictures of bruising, abrasions (cuts and scratches), wounds, bandages, casts, slings, stitches, scarring, infection, and swelling, and from different points in time that show how those injuries progress, change, and hopefully, heal.  The sooner the photographs are taken, the better.

Should you or someone close to you become injured in an incident caused by another’s carelessness (negligence), be sure to immediately start taking photographs of any visible signs of physical injury.

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