Many people experience sleep problems, but if those problems are the result of an accident and/or the injuries caused by that accident, then sleep troubles may be a valid component of damages in a personal injury case. Read on to learn more.
General vs. Special Damages
There are two common types of damages in a personal injury claim: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are often called "special" damages, while non-economic damages are often called "general" damages. "Special" damages include compensation for out-of-pocket losses, including medical expense and lost wages, incurred as a result of the accident. "General" damages include compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress that can be attributed to the underlying accident, the resulting injuries, and the medical treatment made necessary by those injuries. Compensation for sleep problems would fall under "general" damages as a component of either pain and suffering or emotional distress.
Learn more about economic versus non-economic damages.
"Pain and suffering” damages are intended to compensate the injured person for his or her past and future pain, discomfort, and other negative effects of the accident and injuries. "Emotional distress" may be considered part of "pain and suffering" or it may be a standalone category of damages. In either event, "emotional distress" includes the negative mental and psychological consequences of the accident and injuries, encompassing all types of mental anguish, like anxiety, fear, loss of sleep or even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sleep Problems as General Damages
Sleep problems may be the result of a number of contributing factors, and post-accident they may be a sign of more serious conditions.
On the less serious end of the spectrum, the worry created by your accident and injuries may lead to disruptions in your sleep, resulting in fatigue and trouble concentrating. But sometimes, sleep problems are indicative of something more serious, such as a traumatic head or brain injury or even PTSD. If your brain has been injured as a result of an accident, then your sleep, memory, personality, concentration and emotional state may be adversely affected. You may experience headaches and trouble sleeping. Diagnostic tests, like MRI and CT scans, can help determine whether you have sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Proving General Damages
Note that general damages are more difficult to prove than special damages, since they cannot be measured in specific dollar amounts. Therefore, it is important to tell your doctor about any psychological symptoms that you're experiencing, even if you're not certain they're linked to your accident. Having your medical provider document your emotional distress, in addition to all your other medical treatment, will help you get a fair result when it's time to talk personal injury settlement. Keeping a journal and recording your sleep patterns, your emotional state, and other impacts on a daily basis is a great place to start.
Calculating General Damages
General damages are usually determined by using one of two methods – the multiplier method or the daily rate method. The multiplier method calculates "pain and suffering" damages by taking the economic or "special" damages and multiplying that dollar amount by a number, ranging from 1 to 5, which is meant to capture the seriousness of your injuries. For example, if your actual damages are $5,000 and the insurance company uses 2 as the multiplier (since they see your injuries as "moderately serious"), your total damages would be $15,000 -- $5,000 in actual damages and $10,000 in "pain and suffering."
The "per diem" or daily rate method calculates "pain and suffering" by assigning a certain amount of money to each day (or week) you suffered from your injuries after the accident. That "per diem" amount is then added to the amount of your actual damages. For example, assume that your actual damages are $5,000 and that the "per diem" value assigned to your "pain and suffering" is $100. If you suffer from your injuries for two months (60 days), the "per diem" method dictates that you multiply 60 days by $100 to find that your "pain and suffering" is valued at $6,000. Your total damages would then be $11,000 -- $5,000 in actual damages plus $6,000 for "pain and suffering."
The best way to calculate damages for "pain and suffering" may be to use both the multiplier and "per diem" methods to arrive at a ballpark figure. Then, use some common sense and the facts of your particular situation to reasonably value your "pain and suffering."
What is Fair Compensation for Sleep Problems?
Because the psychological and emotional effects of an accident are often ongoing, fair compensation can end up being significant. Sleep problems may fall under both "emotional distress" and "pain and suffering," but it's not always easy to put a dollar value on these kinds of damages, or to convince the other side of the severity and the impact of what you're experiencing (then there's the issue of effectively linking your sleep troubles to the underlying accident). It may be best to put a task like this in the hands of an experienced attorney. Learn more about working with a personal injury attorney.