Pain and suffering is the legal term for the physical pain, as well as the emotional and psychological trauma that a person endures as a result of a personal injury accident.

While factors such as medical bills, lost income, or anything with a set monetary amount are easily calculable, so-called “non-economic” damages, or what is commonly referred to as “pain and suffering” damages are less easily defined.

Generally speaking, the more serious your injuries, the greater the compensation you can claim for pain and suffering.

How are damages for pain and suffering calculated?

Pain and suffering is very subjective and difficult to calculate. Two different people may experience the same injury in vastly dissimilar ways.

When considering compensation for pain and suffering that a victim experiences, an assessor will consider the pain suffered in the accident, the pain experienced from treatment of injuries and future pain that may be experienced after recovery.

What are emotional and mental injuries?

Being injured causes a lot of stress in a victim’s life and the types of emotional and mental anguish that can be experienced afterwards include anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, depression, fear, stress and grief.

Injuries can affect many areas of a victim’s life, impacting their ability to work and even participate in normal activities with friends and family. In the long-term, even after physically recovering from injuries, a victim can experience pain, stress and other problems as a result of anxiety and fear.

How are pain and suffering damages proved?

A personal injury attorney will use medical records, prescription records and receipts, all medical bills including emergency and mental health therapy, proof of time off from work, photos of injuries and statements from family and friends recording the effect of your injuries on your relationships and quality of life.

Road Accident Fund: general damages for pain and suffering

If you have been in a motor vehicle accident on a South African road and the incident wasn’t caused solely by you, you are entitled to compensation with the state-supported insurance fund known as the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

The RAF allows accident victims, or their families if a breadwinner has died, to claim for medical expenses, loss of income or support and funeral costs if applicable. General damages for pain and suffering are only awarded if injuries are classified as serious.

The American Medical Association (AMA) Guides are a global standard for assessing impairment, causation and work ability, and they are used to assess whether a person’s injuries qualify as serious. Under 2008 legislation, only registered practitioners can complete the required RAF 4 Form and Narrative Test to establish whether a person qualifies for general damages and whether they therefore can be compensated for pain and suffering.

Talk to a personal injury law attorney

At Elmarié de Vos Attorneys we have nearly 20 years of experience specialising in personal injury law in South Africa. We focus on claims such as Road Accident Fund, slip and fall, dog bites, medical and professional negligence, and aviation accidents.

Our attorneys and staff are knowledgeable, caring and professional. We will do our best to ensure that you or your loved one get the compensation you deserve as speedily and efficiently as possible. We operate on a contingency basis which means that if there is no win for you, there is no fee from us.

Trust us with your case, tell us your story here:



The information on these web pages is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be stand-alone legal advice. Always consult a suitably qualified attorney for individual advice regarding your legal matter.