In a personal injury claim, pain and suffering represent your mental anguish and emotional distress. While you can easily determine how much money was involved in an accident regarding broken objects and receipts, quantifying pain and suffering can be challenging.
However, it is important to account for your pain and suffering because you may be entitled to receive higher compensation once you include this factor in your claim. Calculating how much pain and suffering you endured from an accident involves two methods: the daily rates method and the specials multiplier method.
Claiming your pain and suffering as damages when you have been in a car accident or experienced a whiplash injury could double the amount you would receive or even quadruple it in some cases. You must detail how much you agonized over your accident to prove to an insurance company that you deserve the extra money you demand. Here is a closer look into what constitutes pain and suffering and the methods of calculating the amount of money you can receive for these damages.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering is a common legal term referring to non-economic damages that you cannot simply calculate by adding up receipts and hospital bills. However, these intangible damages are very real and entitle you to demand more money apart from the total of your medical bills and other physical damages. These non-economic damages usually involve:
- Physical Pain: Any discomfort you experience during and after your accident counts as non-economic general damages in your personal injury claim. Whether temporary or permanent, you may demand compensation for the suffering you endured that hindered you from continuing your life as you had before the accident.
- Emotional Disorders: You may have developed depression, anxiety, insomnia, or memory loss after surviving an accident. Likewise, these conditions would affect your daily activities, justifying why you need extra compensation.
- Loss of Consortium: Surviving an accident can affect your relationship with family members. California law defines this non-economic damage as losing spousal companionship and services, including love, affection, comfort, care, assistance, sexual relations, moral support, and societal status. You may also receive special compensation if you lose the ability to bear children after the accident.
How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering?
There are two methods for calculating pain and suffering compensation. Here is an overview of each method.
Method 1: Daily Rates (Per Diem)
Legal experts refer to this method as the per diem method, meaning “by the day” in Latin. Calculating pain and suffering compensation with the per diem method involves assigning a specific dollar amount to a single day.
You would then multiply that dollar amount by the number of days your injury affected you. However, insurance settlements rarely use the per diem method in putting a price on pain and suffering.
In most cases where an insurance company uses this method, they use the amount of a victim’s daily wages as the dollar value for one day. For instance, suppose you suffered neck injuries after surviving a motorcycle accident. You then wore a neck brace for five weeks, and you were unable to work during that time as a result. You could then demand $4,000 for pain and suffering compensation for the five weeks of missed work if you earned $20 per hour for eight hours a day.
However, this whiplash injury example could result in a higher claim amount. Income is not the only thing you lose when you become injured. You also lose the enjoyment of life, which could develop into emotional and mental illnesses, requiring further compensation. There are many factors to consider when calculating pain and suffering damages which is why this method is not ideal for most cases.
Method 2: Specials Multiplier (Multiple Method)
Multiplying your special damages is the most common method to calculate your pain and suffering in California. This method involves adding up all economic losses, then multiplying them by a number between 1.5 and 5. You would add that number to what you would receive from the calculable damages for a larger total amount of compensation.
Determining the multiplier will depend on the following factors in your personal injury claim:
- Injury Severity: Your pain and suffering after a car accident are different from what you endure after tripping and falling. Each instance can also vary based on how serious the injuries you suffered were. For instance, you would receive more financial compensation for major spinal cord injuries than moderate or minor abrasions.
- Recovery Likelihood: Your prospects for recovering from your injuries affect how much compensation you may receive. This factor is related to injury severity since your recovery will depend on how serious your injuries are.
- Daily Impact: How your injuries affect your everyday life will help determine how much compensation you receive. For instance, suppose your doctor advised you to avoid lifting anything heavier than 5lbs. This scenario leaves you unable to take care of your young children.
- Liability: How much you receive for your pain and suffering will depend on whether or not another party was at fault in the accident that caused your injury. You must support your claim by providing evidence that another person was liable for your injuries.
California law firms tend to use this method as a standard in calculating pain and suffering. Most insurance companies also use this when calculating how much compensation they award claimants. Naturally, you would want to go for a higher multiplier to cover your damages. However, defendants will attempt to lower the multiplier to avoid paying out more money.
Factors That Increase Compensation
Anything that extends your injury recovery time or makes your injury unbearable can significantly boost your pain and suffering value. Here is a list of common factors that can give you a higher monetary compensation amount.
- Amputations: Injuries that require surgeons to remove a limb will prove the severity of your case. Thus, you would be entitled to demand an increase in your compensation.
- Burns: Extensive burns that leave permanent marks on the body would affect you for the rest of your life. You could demand a higher compensation if you suffered such injuries, especially if your line of work depends on your physical appearance.
- Disfigurement: Deformities that result from your injuries, especially on your face, would likewise boost the monetary value of your pain and suffering. Such factors affect self-image and may damage your relationship with society.
- Fatalities: Worst-case scenarios involve accidents that result in fatalities. In these cases, you can demand compensation for the pain and suffering you experience after losing a loved one.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: Damage to your neck and back may occur after vehicular accidents. Their severity varies just like any other injury, which requires specific medical attention to determine how much compensation you deserve.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries: TBIs are major causes of disability and death, leading to physical, sensory, and cognitive damage for those who survive them. Thus, they increase the compensation value you are allowed to demand.
Why Insurance Adjusters Challenge Your Demands for Pain and Suffering
Insurance companies will refuse to pay high amounts of pain and suffering coverage because they want to protect their money. They may challenge your personal injury claim to reduce the settlement offer using any of the following tactics:
- Downplay Your Injury: Insurers may claim that your injury is not as severe as you claim it to be. This argument is common in TBI cases because such injuries require special diagnostic testing to prove their severity.
- History of Injuries: Insurers may claim that your prior injuries caused your current pain and suffering. So, they remove any association of pain and suffering from your latest accident.
- Shared Liability: Insurers will have legal experts on their side to argue that you were partially at fault in the accident that caused your injuries. As such, they can reduce the amount of compensation you receive.
Conclusion: How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering?
Calculating pain and suffering in California usually involve the multiplier method. With this method, you would add all your calculable expenses in an accident, such as medical bills and property damage. Then, you will multiply the sum by a number between 1.5 and 5. Your goal is to get the maximum multiplier for the highest amount of compensation.
You can get the highest multiplier by proving that your pain and suffering warrant that much compensation. Even for severe injuries, it may be difficult to argue for the highest amount of compensation without expert legal advice. Consider getting a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims to handle your case. Experts can navigate the legal system while fighting for your right to receive the maximum compensation you deserve. Contact us today to discuss your case for free.