How Much Is Your Pain and Suffering Worth?

Pain and Suffering Damages

Pain and Suffering consists of not only physical pain, but emotional anguish as well. Working with an experienced lawyer can help you secure the right amount of damages for your pain and suffering caused from an injury.

How Do You Determine Pain and Suffering?

When you are injured in a car crash or other accident, one of the first things you feel is pain. In fact, the amount of pain you feel may be an indication of the seriousness of your injuries. On the other hand, if your injury is serious enough to cause nerve damage, you may feel little or no pain despite being seriously hurt. In other words, pain is not necessarily a simple, straightforward thing. In addition, pain is subjective, meaning that it’s personal to you. Each person experiences pain differently, even those who suffer almost exactly the same type of injury. There’s no objective way to measure it. This, however, does not mean that your pain isn’t real. It is, even though no one other than you can possibly experience it or know its severity.

All of this makes pain and suffering damages difficult to determine. Especially once you file a personal injury lawsuit against the person or entity whose negligence caused the accident that injured you. After all, how can anyone, even you, put a dollar amount on your pain. All while managing to include both its severity and the length of time you experience it? This question forms at the heart of virtually all personal injury lawsuits.

Pain and Suffering Damages

Depending on the laws of the state in which you live, your pain and suffering damages may be part of your general damages or your noneconomic damages. Either way, pain and suffering damages include such things as these:

  • The physical pain caused by your injuries
  • The mental and emotional anguish and trauma you undergo because of your injuries
  • The limitations your injuries place upon you, either temporarily or permanently
  • The distress you experience if your injuries cause you to become permanently disabled in some way
  • The loss of your capacity to enjoy normal sexual relations with your spouse
  • The loss of your career
  • The shortening of your life
  • The depression and loss of enjoyment of life your whole injury experience causes you

Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages

Every state allows you to receive compensation for your pain and suffering damages from the person or entity that caused your injuries. The problem becomes one of placing a monetary value on that which no one can objectively measure. Various methodologies exist to help your attorney and the insurance company that will ultimately pay your damages arrive at a reasonable pain and suffering figure.

One method is called the multiplier method. In this method, your attorney adds up all your economic damages, i.e., those expenses for which you have bills or receipts, such as your hospital expenses, prescription drug expenses, rehabilitation expenses and medical equipment expenses. He or she then multiplies this total by a number between 1.5 and 5. The more severe your injury, the higher the multiplier number. The product of this multiplication, when added to the amount of your economic damages, represents the estimated reasonable value of your pain and suffering.

For example, suppose you suffer an injury to your leg in a motorcycle accident that requires you to undergo several surgeries. Your pain and suffering multiplier likely will be 5 given the seriousness of this injury. Assuming your medical expenses total $500,000, your pain and suffering calculation becomes $500,000 x 5 = $2,500,000 + $500,000 = $3,000,000.

Another method for calculating pain and suffering damages is the per diem method. Per diem is a Latin term meaning each day. In this method, your attorney and the insurance company agree on a reasonable daily figure, such as $200. At the point your physician determines you have recovered from your injuries as much as you’re going to, the number of days from your accident to your maximum recovery gets multiplied by 200. Using the motorcycle injury above, suppose it takes you six months to recover from your surgeries. Your pain and suffering calculation becomes $200 x 182.5 (the number of days in six months) = $36,500.

Why You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Obviously, the same injury can result in hugely different pain and suffering values depending on which damages calculation method is used. It goes without saying that your attorney will use the method that produces the highest result while the insurance company will use the method that produces the lowest result. Keeping in mind that any type of calculation represents only an estimate; your attorney and the insurance company will then attempt to negotiate a pain and suffering amount somewhere in the middle.

This is where the experience and skills of your attorney come into play. The better negotiator he or she is, the greater the likelihood that the insurance company will offer a reasonable settlement. Then, you may not have to go to court at all. However, he or she needs to have a firm idea of your case’s value. Both in terms of pain and suffering and overall damages you suffered. Then, they can help you enter into negotiations with the insurance company. They must have a good idea of what amounts juries in your area have awarded in cases like yours. Remember, while your attorney must advise you of all settlement offers the insurance company makes, he or she should also advise you of whether you should accept an offer or proceed to trial and why.

Even the best attorney needs the ammunition, i.e., evidence, to back up his or her negotiations and jury presentations. This is why you should be completely open and honest with your lawyer about the amount of pain and suffering you’re actually experiencing as a result of your accident. This is no time to “be brave” or “just deal with it”. Your pain and suffering is real. The insurance company, and certainly the jury, need to understand how real it is in order to attach value to it in the form of damages.

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