Many people think that after an accident the biggest component of their compensation payout is for pain and suffering. While in many cases pain and suffering compensation can be significant, the example which we set out below shows that there may well be more valuable components to your compensation claim.
But let’s start at the beginning: why do people think that pain and suffering attracts the highest compensation amount in Queensland?
First of all, serious car accidents or workplace accidents often lead to significant and painful injuries.
For example, you may be treated in hospital for a few weeks (or even a month or two).
Once you are released from hospital, it is not uncommon that over the subsequent months (maybe years) you require multiple surgeries.
And in many cases we see that our clients require care and support of family members for many months after the accident.
During this period, our clients often experience pain and ongoing difficulties every day and it is difficult to focus on anything else.
The compensation for pain and suffering is supposed to be there to compensate you for this daily struggle.
What people often don’t realise though is that compensation for pain and suffering is not unlimited, and in Queensland there are some significant limitations.
First of all, in personal injury cases in Queensland there is no possibility of a jury trial. So what you have seen in the legal dramas on TV that a sympathetic jury comes in with a huge verdict in your favour just cannot happen in this State.
Secondly, the amount of pain and suffering compensation is limited by legislation, namely the Civil Liability Regulations.
How does the legislation cap pain and suffering compensation? Imagine a long list which covers virtually all parts of the body. The legislation then sets out minimum and maximum ranges of pain and suffering compensation depending on the severity of the injury. (The severity is determined based on medical evidence).
Now, imagine that you are awarded a compensation of $100,000 for pain and suffering. In Queensland this would suggest that you have suffered fairly significant injuries.
Many people would consider that $100,000 compensation is a significant amount. But just consider the following example to see how this compensation compares with other components of your claim.
Let’s take our client who is a 32 year old house painter with usual weekly earnings of $2,000. Our client suffers a disc bulge in his spine in a workplace accident and they require time off work, spinal surgery and subsequent physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
The short term consequence of the accident is that our client is unable to return to any form of work for approximately 1 year.
Even after our client’s condition improves, the medical advice is that they should find alternative employment with light duties. Eventually, our client finds a customer service role at a hardware store, earning approximately $24 per hour. This equates to a weekly income of approximately $915, assuming full time employment.
Our client can recover as compensation the wages he has already lost (called past economic loss) as well as wages he will likely lose in the future (called future economic loss).
In this scenario, our client would recover $104,000 in respect of the 1 year period when he was unable to return to work.
But the biggest component of the claim is our client’s future economic loss. Prior to the accident, our client was able to earn $2,000 but know he only earns $915. So he is able to recover a weekly loss of $1,085 for a period of 35 years (that is, until reaching age 67, which is the retirement age). This is a compensation amount of $801,540.
Bear in mind, in this calculation we have taken into account certain discounting factors.
So as you can see, in many cases, the compensation for future economic loss far exceeds pain and suffering compensation.
Many firms try to rush you to sign up with them without carefully considering your options. We encourage you to first learn about your personal injury claim. You should ask yourself:
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