How are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?
When you have suffered an injury that was caused by someone else, you have the legal right to pursue financial recovery. Many types of accidents can result in personal injuries, including car accidents, bike accidents, and slip and falls. You can seek compensation to cover the costs of your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
First, you will need to determine who is at-fault for your accident and injuries. After determining legal liability, you will need to provide evidence of the damages from your injury in order to claim compensation. Most kinds of damages are easily calculable. For instance, medical bills, missed work, and property damage each entail specific monetary values.
But other damages that are just as real are not as easy to quantify. It is complicated to calculate non-economic damages like pain and suffering. But a personal injury attorney can examine your case to ensure that you seek compensation that’s appropriate to your case.
Below, we discuss several relevant factors in calculating pain and suffering damages.
What are Pain and Suffering Damages?
“Pain and suffering” is a category of damages. It includes physical and mental anguish resulting from an injury. This is also a subcategory of “general damages ” or “non-economic damages,” which are a type of compensation awarded to a plaintiff through a lawsuit or settlement.
Pain and suffering can include damage to the victim’s body, such as a broken limb or fractured skull. Pain and suffering may also include more subtle physical difficulties, such as headaches or recurring twinges of discomfort. Lastly, pain and suffering damages can also cover some forms of mental suffering that are related to an injury.
This category of general damages was created to compensate victims when they have to endure hardships caused by their injuries. In cases involving relatively minor injuries, pain and suffering damages may be awarded to compensate for the physical pain that occurs throughout the recovery process.
Other forms of general damage can also be lifelong. For instance, what if your injury prevents you from comfortably picking up your child ever again? What if you are unable to take walks with your spouse following your accident? Although these types of costs are not easily quantifiable, victims deserve compensation for these damages.
When you speak with a skilled personal injury lawyer, they can help you to appropriately calculate the value of all of the negative impacts of your injuries.
Distinguishing Between General Damages vs. Special Damages
The legal distinction between “general” and “special” damages can be counterintuitive to those who are unfamiliar with these categories. The term “general damages,” sometimes called “non-economic damages,” refers to compensation for those costs that do not carry a specific dollar value. As we mentioned above, pain and suffering are a form of general damages.
Examples of general (or non-economic) damages include:
- Physical suffering and pain
- Physical impairment or injuries, including disability and disfigurement
- Mental anguish and trauma, including stress, anxiety, or panic
- Decreased quality of life
- Loss of consortium (losing a family member through a wrongful death)
- Loss of earning potential
While general damages cover the non-monetary costs from an injury, “special damages” are compensation for specific monetary losses. Special damages are also known as “economic damages.”
Examples of special (or economic) damages include:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Lost wages and other missed income
- Compensation for the loss of irreplaceable property
- Home care costs
- Bills for replacing or repairing damaged property
In many successful personal injury cases, both general and special damages are awarded. Injury victims should be compensated for all of the costs associated with their accidents.
Evidence Used to Prove Pain and Suffering
Claimants need evidence when they are planning to seek damages for the pain and suffering associated with their injuries. Any documentation or evidence may be useful in a personal injury case. The more evidence you can present, the higher the financial recovery from your pain and suffering is likely to be.
Common examples of evidence of pain and suffering include:
- Documentation detailing the opinion of an expert about the relevant type of personal injury
- Documentation of your current and past medical prescriptions, including pain medications or mental health medications
- Your written testimony discussing the impact of your pain and suffering
- The testimony of those close to you, including family and friends, who can speak truthfully about the impact of your pain and suffering
While your testimony can be effective for securing compensation, medical documentation is the most obvious way to show that your injury resulted in a significant amount of pain and suffering.
The Multiplier Method: Calculating a Specific Amount
There are multiple ways to arrive at a specific amount of compensation that may be due for pain and suffering damages. One common example is known as the “multiplier method.” When using this method, the insurance provider and your attorney negotiate a multiplier number between 1.5 and 5 to represent the severity of your injury.
This method assumes that your pain and suffering damages should be at least 1.5 times the value of the monetary costs of your injury.
The more significant your injuries are, the higher your multiplier number will be. Obviously, the insurance provider typically argues for a lower multiplier number to keep their costs low. This is why it is important to secure competent legal representation.
Once a number has been negotiated, they use the following equation to quantify your pain and suffering damages:
(total economic/special damages) x (multiplier number) + (total economic/special damages) = value of the personal injury case
So, let’s say your total special damages equal $200,000 and your multiplier for pain and suffering is a 4. Your total damages would equal $1 Mill ($200,000 x 4 + $200,000).
Other Ways to Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages
Many lawyers and insurance companies rely on the multiplier method. But there is no single or universal way to calculate non-economic damages like pain and suffering. For instance, in some cases, a “per diem” calculation is used.
Using this method, an injury victim is compensated a specific dollar amount for their pain and suffering every day until they reach maximum medical improvement. The seriousness of the injury and the extent of the anguish a victim experiences are factored in when determining what an appropriate “per diem” amount is.
Let’s say a per diem value for pain and suffering damages is set at $125. The plaintiff would be awarded $125 for every day of their life until they reached maximum medical recovery. That is, until their doctor said that their medical condition has improved as much as it ever will. If that recovery took 1,000 days, the value of the pain and suffering damages would be $125,000.
If you are seeking financial recovery for the costs of an injury, contact a skilled personal injury lawyer. Beyond the financial costs associated with your accident, you deserve compensation for any pain and suffering that you have endured.