Calculating Pain and Suffering in Injury Claims
Posted in Lawsuit on April 24, 2017
After an accident, someone may experience many different types of losses. Some losses are quantitative and easy to prove, while others are more subjective. One of the most difficult types of damages to give a monetary value to are pain and suffering. Attorneys and insurers may use a number of methods to assign a dollar amount to this type of damage.
What is Pain and Suffering?
In civil claims, pain and suffering covers physical and emotional injury. It may refer to the onset of emotional disorders, the inability to engage normally with family members, and/or the chronic or severe pain experience an injurious event causes. Depending on the nature of the injury, a plaintiff may receive compensation for immediate pain and suffering or compensation for both immediate and future pain and suffering.
The compensation category is difficult to calculate because everyone experiences pain differently. Even if two people suffer the exact same injury, their level of pain tolerance, both physically and emotionally, may be very different. Fair compensation for pain and suffering boils down to a plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate losses.
Economic Damages Can Inform Non-economic Damages
Economic damages are relatively easy to calculate because they cover financial losses associated with an injury. Insurers base economic damage awards based on medical bills, receipts, evidence of lost income, property repair bills, projections of future income losses, projections of future medical expenses, and other easily calculable costs.
While the industry has not standardized a method for calculating pain and suffering, many insurers and attorneys use one of two primary approaches: a multiplier or a per diem calculation.
- To calculate pain and suffering using a multiplier, professionals will take the total amount of economic damages and apply a multiple. When using this approach, an attorney or insurance adjustor will generally rate pain and suffering on a scale from 1.5–5 based on the factors of the claim. More severe and difficult-to-treat injuries rate higher on the scale than minor to moderate injury experiences.
- Per diem pain and suffering. In this approach, the plaintiff’s representative will assign a dollar amount to each day of suffering a client has endured and will endure until he or she reaches a point of maximum recovery. Professionals may calculate the per diem rate differently and generally use this approach for injuries involving finite recovery periods.
When you receive a settlement offer from an insurance company, the figure may include a pain and suffering calculation. Often, companies use computer programs to calculate a standard offer based on facts of the case, claim precedent, and other criteria. An insurer’s calculated sum may or may not reflect the true level of pain and suffering a plaintiff endures.
How Your Attorney Can Help
At best, pain and suffering calculations are estimates. There is no predetermined right or wrong answer, which means your personal injury attorney can play a major role in maximizing the multiplier or per diem rate used to calculate your claim value. You and your attorney can identify the pieces of evidence that support a specific multiplier or per diem rate. Records of therapy sessions, treatment recommendations, and examples of times you missed out on life experiences with your spouse and/or children will support your calculations.
You can’t falsify your experience of an injury for a higher claim settlement, but you are entitled to a fair pain and suffering calculation. You may never get those lost moments back, but you can translate that feeling of loss into a reasonable compensation request.