Explaining "pain and suffering" awards: the role of injury characteristics and fault attributions

Law Hum Behav. 1997 Apr;21(2):181-207. doi: 10.1023/a:1024878329333.


The present research explored factors thought to affect compensatory awards for non-economic harm ("pain and suffering") in personal injury cases. Experiment 1 showed that the nature and severity of the plaintiff's injury had a strong effect on perceptions of the extent of harm suffered and on award amounts. The parties' relatively active or passive roles in causing the injury affected assessments of their degree of fault, but perceived fault had little influence on awards. Experiment 2 replicated with more varied cases the strong impact of injury severity on harm perception and on awards for pain and suffering. In both studies, the disability and the mental suffering associated with injuries were stronger predictors of awards than were pain and disfigurement.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / economics
  • Accidents / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Perception / classification
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Social Responsibility
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification*
  • Wounds and Injuries / economics
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*