How are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?
The pain and suffering damages caused by accidents can be overwhelming. Even minor injuries can cause significant physical pain and emotional suffering. Some individuals suffer chronic pain for months after an accident, or even years after an injury.
The negligent person who caused your injury can be held liable for your pain and suffering damages, in addition to your financial losses. However, calculating pain and suffering damages is more challenging because there is no statutory formula for placing a value on a person’s suffering and pain.
What are Pain and Suffering Damages?
“Pain and suffering” is the common term used for noneconomic damages. It refers to the suffering caused by an accident or intentional injury.
Examples of pain and suffering damages include:
- The physical pain caused by an injury
- Emotional distress, including depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and anxiety
- Mental anguish and suffering
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life caused by permanent disabilities
- Impairments and permanent disabilities
- Loss of companionship, love, and affection
Each person’s experience after an accident is unique. Unfortunately, that is what makes it challenging to calculate pain and suffering damages. What should a person be paid for the pain and suffering caused by another person’s wrongdoing or negligence?
Factors That Impact the Value of Pain and Suffering
When calculating pain and suffering, several factors can impact value. Examples of factors that impact the value of non-economic damages include:
- The type of injury sustained
- The severity of your injury
- Whether you contributed to the cause of your injury
- How long it takes you to recover from your injuries
- Whether you sustained a disabling condition
- The financial damages related to the accident and your injury
- Whether you were disfigured because of the accident
In most personal injury cases, the value of the non-economic damages increases as the severity of the injuries increases. Financial damages increase because the cost of treating traumatic and catastrophic injuries is more costly than treating minor injuries.
Catastrophic injuries have a high risk of resulting in permanent disabilities, which could require ongoing medical and personal care. If so, future damages could also include compensation for ongoing pain and suffering.
Methods for Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
There is not a standard formula for calculating pain and suffering damages. However, there are two common ways of valuing pain and suffering damages when negotiating a settlement for your truck accident claim or another personal injury claim.
The Multiplier Method
Many insurance providers use the multiplier method to calculate pain and suffering damages. The multiplier method requires that the company assign a multiplier between 1.5 and 5 to the claim. The value of the multiplier is based on the facts of the case.
Generally, the more severe the injury, the higher the multiplier. For example, a case involving paralysis or permanent brain injury might receive a multiplier of five. On the other hand, a whiplash case that results in no permanent impairment might receive a multiplier of 1.5 or two.
The amount of economic damages is multiplied by the multiplier to calculate damages for pain and suffering. For example, a person sustains a complex fracture in a pedestrian accident that requires surgery and two months of physical therapy. The insurance provider and the person’s lawyer agree to a multiplier of 2.5.
The economic damages total $95,000. Therefore, the value of the person’s pain and suffering claim is $237,500 ($95,000 x 2.5).
Economic damages in a personal injury claim include:
- The cost of medical care
- Physical, occupational, vocational, rehabilitation, and emotional therapy
- Loss of income and benefits
- Travel expenses to and from medical appointments
- The cost of personal care and help without household chores
- Medical supplies and medical equipment
- Modifications to a person’s home and vehicle to accommodate a permanent disability
The accident victim argues for the highest multiplier, while the insurance provider argues for the lowest multiplier. An experienced personal injury lawyer understands how to use the various factors in the case to support the argument for a fair multiplier.
The Per Diem Method
The per diem method is not as common as the multiplier method. However, parties might use it in cases that do not result in permanent impairments. The date of recovery must be identifiable to use the per diem method.
As with the multiplier method, the parties agree on a per diem based on the case’s factors. A per diem is a daily amount that the victim receives as compensation for non-economic damages.
The per diem is multiplied by the total number of days the victim spent recovering from injuries caused by the accident. The recovery length is generally calculated as the number of days from the accident date through the date all medical providers release the victim.
For example, a person is injured in a motorcycle accident. It takes 180 days for the motorcyclist to complete medical treatment by all providers. If the per diem is $250 per day, the value of pain and suffering damages will total $45,000 (180 days x $250).
What Happens if My Case Goes to Trial?
The jury determines the value of your pain and suffering damages if the case goes to trial. Most juries use a multiplier method to calculate pain and suffering damages because it is easier to assign a multiplier than to calculate a per diem rate for injuries. However, the jury could decide to use the per diem method.
Your personal injury lawyer uses the facts in the case and the evidence presented at trial to highlight how much you have suffered because of the accident and your injuries. A trial lawyer understands how to weave the evidence into a story detailing your physical pain, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, emotional distress, and other grief that is compelling and convincing.
In many cases, your testimony at trial about your struggle to recover from injuries caused by negligence and wrongdoing is often the most compelling evidence to convince a jury to award a higher value for pain and suffering damages.
Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer can be one of the best ways to secure full compensation for pain and suffering damages. An insurance provider might try to take advantage of your lack of legal experience to convince you that your claim is worth far less than the actual value. Before you settle a claim, check with a personal injury attorney to make sure you receive a fair settlement based on the law and the facts in your case.