How is Pain and Suffering Valued in a Zantac® Lawsuit?

How "pain and suffering" is defined in a heartburn medication lawsuit, and how these non-economic losses are calculated.

As Zantac® and other ranitidine products come under increased scrutiny—including allegations that these heartburn medications contain dangerous levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a known carcinogen—lawsuits have followed.

But when you're experiencing health problems possibly linked to use of a popular drug like Zantac® or another product containing ranitidine, it isn't always easy to determine the scope of the harm you've potentially suffered. One issue is that symptoms resulting from Zantac® use might not show up right away. Another challenge involves quantifying the more subjective effects of heartburn medication-related illness, including what's known as "pain and suffering." How are nonfinancial losses like these defined, and how are they calculated in a Zantac® case?

What Is Pain and Suffering?

In personal injury cases where a plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) is claiming to have suffered physical harm, "pain and suffering" is usually a category of the plaintiff's "damages." (Damages are losses resulting from the at-fault party's negligence or other wrongdoing). More specifically, pain and suffering is a component of "general" or "non-economic" damages. These kinds of losses are more difficult to quantify than "economic" damages, which include medical bills, lost income, and other out-of-pocket financial impacts attributable to the plaintiff's injuries.

While it's fairly easy to look at an itemized medical bill or pay stub and arrive at a dollar figure, people experience pain in different ways, making it tough to determine fair compensation for that pain and its impacts. Indeed, the definition of and damages for pain and suffering are more subjective than formulaic. Get more details on damages in a personal injury case.

While some forms of pain and suffering are just what the term indicates—physical pain and discomfort—the concept covers a wide range of impacts, from the physical effects of the underlying harm to emotional distress.

In the context of a lawsuit over Zantac® or another ranitidine-based heartburn medication, different kinds of pain and suffering might include:

  • physical pain and discomfort resulting from heartburn drug-related health problems
  • anxiety over a diagnosis of cancer or another health problem linked to heartburn medication
  • sleeplessness, fear, depression, and other psychological effects, and
  • inability to perform certain tasks or engage in certain activities (from driving the kids to school to taking a long-planned vacation) because of a heartburn medication-related health problems.

How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated in a Zantac® Case?

In determining the settlement value of a Zantac® case or anticipating what a jury might award in the rare event that the lawsuit goes to trial, there is no simple method or formula for figuring out the plaintiff's pain and suffering.

While pain and suffering is largely subjective, lawyers, insurers, and courts sometimes calculate it and other non-economic damages in direct relation to the plaintiff's economic damages. Sometimes they use a so-called "multiplier" (generally between 1.5 and 4) that is based on the seriousness of the physical injuries, the clarity of the defendant's liability, and other factors. For example, let's say a Zantac® plaintiff's medical bills and lost income add up to $25,000, and a pain-and-suffering multiplier of 2 is used because some of the health problems aren't obviously attributable to ranitidine. In that case, the plaintiff's pain-and-suffering damages are $50,000 (the $25,000 economic damages multiplied by 2). Learn more about how pain and suffering is calculated in a personal injury case.

When you're settling a Zantac® heartburn medication lawsuit, it's important to keep in mind that the use of a multiplier and other calculation methods is just a starting point when it comes to figuring out pain and suffering, especially when injuries are significant and the plaintiff's experience is unique. And if your lawsuit makes it all the way to trial, one of the biggest determinants of the value of your pain-and-suffering damages is you—specifically, your ability to serve as a good witness and effectively communicate to the judge or jury exactly how your ranitidine-related health problems have affected you.

But the first step in seeking fair compensation for your damages—including pain and suffering and other losses—is finding an attorney with experience in Zantac®/heartburn drug cases like yours.

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