How To Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages in Personal Injury Cases
If you have been hurt in an accident because of someone else’s negligence, you have the right to seek financial compensation.
While many of the damages following an injury are easily calculable, others are difficult to quantify. Injury victims should be compensated for the specific financial losses they suffer as the result of an accident. But they should also receive compensation for the negative outcomes of their injuries that are not easily calculated, including pain and suffering.
In the following post, we will define the category of damages known as “pain and suffering” and examine two prominent methods for calculating personal injury damages of this nature.
Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages
When you have been injured, it may be easy to calculate many of the costs associated with your injury. Other costs do not come with a price tag. For these, it can be difficult to determine their value.
Damages that have a specific monetary cost associated with them are known as economic or special damages.
The negative consequences of an injury that do not have an associated dollar value are known as non-economic or general damages.
Some common examples of economic damages include:
- Medical bills and treatment costs
- Lost income from missed work
- Property damage repair or replacement costs
- Estimated long-term loss of earning potential
Although economic damages are the most recognizable result of an injury, non-economic damages can be extremely devastating for the victim, as well.
Some examples of non-economic damages include:
- Disability or disfigurement
- Mental anguish and suffering (such as trauma, anxiety, panic, and stress)
- Decreased enjoyment of life
- Loss of a relationship/companionship (such as the loss of a spouse in a wrongful death case)
- Loss of occupation or career
- Emotional distress and suffering
Pain and suffering is one of the most common categories of non-economic damages in a personal injury case. It is a broad category and can include bodily damage, such as a fractured limb or disfigurement. This category can also include ongoing subtle discomfort for the victim, like aches or recurring pains.
Speaking with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is the best way to accurately calculate the value of your non-economic damages, including pain and suffering.
Documenting Your Pain and Suffering
When you are seeking financial compensation for non-economic damages from your injury, evidence is very important.
Personal injury victims, with the help of their attorneys, must prove that the pain and suffering caused by their injuries has resulted in real damage to their lives.
Common evidence claimants use to prove the effects of pain and suffering include:
- Documentation of past and current medications and prescriptions, including mental health and pain treatments
- Expert testimony that acknowledges the types of pain and suffering that usually result from the type of injury the victim sustained
- The victim’s written or spoken testimony in regards to the impact the injury has had on their life (this type of evidence is particularly impactful for helping a judge or jury to understand the victim’s experience)
- Written or spoken testimony from the victim’s loved ones about the claimant’s pain and suffering
The most common way to show the material effects of pain and suffering is by presenting medical bills. However, more personal evidence and testimony can be incredibly helpful when detailing your injuries to a judge or jury.
Even with sufficient evidence, certain factors about your injury will influence the amount you can expect to receive for pain and suffering.
- What is/was the severity of your injury?
- Do you require ongoing medical care or physical therapy?
- Did preexisting medical conditions impact your health or recovery?
- What was the total economic cost of your injury?
Below, we will examine two methods used to calculate damages for pain and suffering. The most effective way to determine how much your case may be worth is to speak with a personal injury attorney.
The Multiplier Method
Because these damages are non-economic, there is no single or universal way to quantify the value of a victim’s pain and suffering. However, there are two common methods lawyers and insurance providers apply.
The first is known as the multiplier method.
This method assumes that the value of pain and suffering is at least 1.5 times the economic cost of recovering from the injury. The claimant’s attorney and the relevant insurance company will negotiate a multiplier number between 1.5 and 5. More severe injuries will be assigned a higher multiplier number because they are worth more.
After negotiating the multiplier number, the following equation can be used to quantify the value of the victim’s claim:
(past and future medical costs) x (multiplier number) + (total monetary/economic damages) = total value of the personal injury case
For example, suppose a victim has suffered a broken bone and the total cost of their medical care is $3,000. If the insurance company and the victim’s lawyer agree to a multiplier number value of 2, then the pain and suffering would be worth $6,000. They would add this to the original $3,000 and the case would have a total value of $9,000.
The Per Diem Method
Another common way to calculate pain and suffering is known as the per diem method. Applying this method involves the claimant’s lawyer and the insurance provider negotiating a certain amount of compensation per day until the victim has recovered to the fullest possible extent.
Often, the per diem method relies on a sum of $100 per day. For example, if you were injured in a car accident on June 1st and you required medical care and physical therapy for six months (180 days), then your pain and suffering would be worth $18,000.
While it is common to use either the multiplier or per diem method to calculate the monetary value of pain and suffering, you should speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer regarding the specifics of your case.