Calculating pain and suffering damages can be one of the most challenging parts of filing an injury lawsuit. Pain and suffering refer to physical discomfort, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other intangible losses suffered by an injured victim. While economic damages like medical bills and lost income can be more easily quantified, assigning a dollar value to pain and suffering can be highly subjective. This article will provide guidance on the key methods personal injury lawyers use to calculate reasonable pain and suffering damages for clients.
When filing a personal injury lawsuit over a car accident, slip and fall, or other negligent injury, pain and suffering damages make up one component of the total compensation you may be entitled to. Other types of damages typically include:
Special damages – Out-of-pocket losses like medical bills and lost wages that can be precisely calculated.
General damages – Subjective, non-economic losses like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages – Extra damages awarded to punish the at-fault party in cases of gross negligence or intentional harm.
The two main approaches lawyers use to calculate pain and suffering damages are the multiplier method and the per diem method. Let’s take a closer look at how these work.
The Multiplier Method for Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages in a Personal Injury Claim
The most common approach for calculating pain and suffering damages is to take the victim’s special damages and multiply them by a number between 1 and 5. This multiplier method uses special damages like medical expenses and lost income as a baseline for quantifying general damages.
For example, if a victim has $10,000 in medical bills and lost wages from their injuries, a lawyer may determine a fair pain and suffering amount is $30,000 to $50,000. This would be a multiplier of 3 to 5 times special damages.
Key factors that affect the appropriate multiplier include:
The severity of the injuries – More severe injuries warrant a higher multiplier. Minor soft tissue injuries may have a multiplier of around 1-3, while permanent disabilities may be 4-5.
Length of recovery time – Longer recovery periods typically result in increased pain and suffering.
Type of medical treatment – Extensive surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, etc. can increase general damages.
Loss of enjoyment of life – How much the injury affected recreational activities, hobbies, and quality of life.
Emotional distress – Mental anguish like depression or anxiety related to the accident.
Aggravating factors – Considerations like whether scarring or disfigurement resulted.
Your personal injury attorney will use their experience with comparable cases and expert judgment to determine a reasonable multiplier and pain and suffering amount based on these factors.
Using the Per Diem Method to Calculate Pain and Suffering Compensation After a Car Accident
Another approach some personal injury lawyers use is the per diem method, which calculates pain and suffering damages on a daily or hourly basis. This involves estimating a dollar value per day or hour for the victim’s pain and suffering, then multiplying it by the length of time pain will be experienced.
For example, an attorney may determine a fair per diem rate of $200 per day for pain and suffering. If the victim is expected to experience ongoing pain for 2 years, the calculation would be:
$200 per day x 365 days x 2 years = $146,000 in pain and suffering damages
The per diem method allows lawyers to break down pain and suffering into granular daily or hourly increments. Key considerations for determining a fair per diem rate include:
The victim’s level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10
Whether over-the-counter or prescription medications were required for pain
Impact on daily living activities and performance at work
Whether the victim required assistance with personal care
Any loss of mobility or range of motion
Emotional impacts like depression, anxiety, fear, anger
Loss of companionship and social life
Some lawyers come up with hourly rates based on the victim’s wage rate to quantify what their pain-related suffering is worth on an hourly basis. While the per diem method can provide a more formulaic calculation, multipliers are still more commonly used in injury cases.
What is a Typical Pain and Suffering Settlement Amount from Insurance Companies?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a “typical” pain and suffering settlement amount since each case depends heavily on the specific circumstances. That said, some general guidelines from legal research include:
For minor soft tissue injuries, between 1 and 3 times, special damages are common.
For more serious injuries requiring surgery, settlements may range from $50,000 to $100,000 or more above special damages.
Permanent disabilities often result in pain and suffering awards in the six figures and beyond. The highest pain and suffering awards exceed $1 million.
Contested liability and contributory negligence can reduce awards. Clear-cut liability and defendant negligence tend to increase awards.
Cases settled out of court generally have lower pain and suffering amounts than those resolved through a trial verdict.
In the end, your attorney will strive to quantify pain and suffering damages in a way that fairly reflects the extent of suffering you’ve endured. While it’s not an exact science, using benchmarks from similar cases helps justify a reasonable claim.
Documenting Your Physical Pain and Emotional Distress is Critical to Prove Pain and Suffering
Thoroughly documenting your pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life caused by an accident injury creates a stronger case for higher pain and suffering damages. Your attorney can use this evidence to prove your general damages claim.
Important documentation includes:
Detailed records of medical treatments, medications, physical therapy, etc. This verifies the extent and duration of pain.
Journals or notes track your daily pain levels, limitations, emotional impacts, use of medications, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Statements from friends, family, coworkers, etc., about observable impacts and emotional changes they’ve witnessed.
Photos and video showing any visible injuries, casts, braces, surgery scars, or other evidence of pain and suffering.
The more evidence your injury lawyer can gather to prove ongoing and severe pain, the greater justification they have for seeking higher pain and suffering damages.
Negotiating With Insurance Adjusters to Receive Fair Compensation for Your Pain and Suffering
After thoroughly documenting your pain and suffering, your attorney will likely need to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company responsible for paying damages. Insurers use their own methods for valuing pain and suffering claims.
Adjusters may make unreasonably low initial offers, so your lawyer’s skill at advocating for fair compensation is key. Having detailed medical records and concrete evidence of your pain and suffering will strengthen your position in settlement negotiations.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer on Calculating and Filing a Pain and Suffering Claim After an Accident
Proving pain and suffering damages can be complex. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to properly calculate and document your pain and suffering using proven legal methods. A lawyer can advise you on the best strategies for calculating and proving your pain and suffering damages. An experienced attorney will use proven methods to produce a reasonable estimate of your general damages. They will gather medical evidence and documentation to substantiate your pain and suffering claim.
Your lawyer can also handle negotiations with insurance companies to demand fair compensation for your losses. If an acceptable settlement cannot be reached, a qualified personal injury attorney can take your case to court and advocate for you in front of a jury. With strong representation, you are more likely to recover the maximum pain and suffering damages you are entitled to under the law.
Before accepting an initial settlement offer, consult with a personal injury lawyer to determine whether it adequately covers your pain and suffering. An attorney can provide a free case evaluation, explain your options, and fight to get you full compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Don’t let an insurance company minimize your suffering – get experienced legal help seeking justice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is pain and suffering in the context of injury lawsuits?
A: Pain and suffering refers to the physical and emotional distress experienced by an individual as a result of an injury caused by someone else’s negligence or misconduct.
Q: How are pain and suffering damages calculated?
A: There is no set formula to calculate pain and suffering damages, as they involve factors that are subjective and intangible. However, there are various methods and formulas used by insurance companies and courts to estimate the value of these damages.
Q: Is there a pain and suffering calculator?
A: Yes, there are pain and suffering calculators available that use specific formulas and data to estimate the value of pain and suffering damages. However, it’s important to note that these calculators are just tools and should not be relied upon as definitive measures.
Q: What factors are considered when calculating pain and suffering damages?
A: When calculating pain and suffering damages, factors such as the severity of the injury, the duration of the pain and suffering, the impact on the victim’s daily life, the emotional distress caused, and the future prognosis are taken into account.
Q: Can I sue for pain and suffering in a personal injury case?
A: Yes, you can sue for pain and suffering in a personal injury case. If you can prove that the negligence or wrongdoing of another person caused your injuries and resulted in physical or emotional pain and suffering, you may be entitled to compensation.
Q: Do insurance companies value pain and suffering?
A: Yes, insurance companies generally consider pain and suffering as compensable damage in personal injury claims. However, they may try to minimize the value of these damages in order to reduce their payout.
Q: How are economic damages different from non-economic damages?
A: Economic damages refer to the quantifiable financial losses incurred as a result of an injury, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are subjective and include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Q: Is there a way to calculate pain and suffering damages without a calculator?
A: Yes, pain and suffering damages can be calculated without using a specific calculator. An experienced personal injury attorney can assess the various factors involved in your case and determine a reasonable dollar amount for your pain and suffering.
Q: Can I use a pain and suffering calculator to estimate my settlement amount?
A: While a pain and suffering calculator can provide you with an estimate, it’s important to remember that it may not accurately reflect the value of your specific case. Consulting with a personal injury attorney is the best way to ensure you receive fair compensation for your pain and suffering.
Q: What types of damages can I receive compensation for in a personal injury case?
A: In a personal injury case, you may be eligible to receive compensation for various damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
Q: How are pain and suffering calculated in a car accident injury case?
A: Pain and suffering in a car accident injury case is calculated based on the severity of the injuries sustained, the impact on the victim’s quality of life, the length of treatment and recovery, and the emotional distress experienced. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help determine a fair amount for these damages.
Document pain levels, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life
Special damages x multiplier = one pain and suffering calculation method
Per diem rate x duration of pain = another approach
Negotiate firmly with adjusters and pursue litigation if needed
Clear liability and severe injuries equal higher settlements
Experienced personal injury lawyers maximize recoveries