Abstract

Attorneys use the term pain and suffering to indicate the subjective, intangible effects of an individual's injury, and plaintiffs may seek compensation for “pain and suffering” as part of a personal injury case although it is not usually an element of a workers’ compensation case. The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Fifth Edition, provides guidance for rating pain qualitatively or quantitatively in certain cases, but, because of the subjectivity and privateness of the patient's experience, the AMA Guides offers no quantitative approach to assessing “pain and suffering.” The AMA Guides also cautions that confounders of pain behaviors and perception of pain include beliefs, expectations, rewards, attention, and training. “Pain and suffering” is challenging for all parties to value, particularly in terms of financial damages, and using an individual's medical expenses as an indicator of “pain and suffering” simply encourages excessive diagnostic and treatment interventions. The affective component, ie, the uniqueness of this subjective experience, makes it difficult for others, including evaluators, to grasp its meaning. Experienced evaluators recognize that a myriad of factors play a role in the experience of suffering associated with pain, including its intensity and location, the individual's ability to conceptualize pain, the meaning ascribed to pain, the accompanying injury or illness, and the social understanding of suffering.

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