How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?
Because pain and suffering are much more subjective than existing or projected medical expenses, there’s much more variability in terms of how attorneys, insurance companies, and juries value them. There are no specific rules or official methods, either, so insurers will look to past cases, rules of thumb, or even software algorithms to arrive at a dollar figure for a pain and suffering claim.
That said, there are a couple of common approaches.
The “Multiplier Method”
Often, insurance companies will use a multiplier or factor method for calculating pain and suffering damages, based on the nature of an injury and the amount of economic damages you suffered. The general idea with this method is that the more medical treatment you end up needing, the more pain and suffering you’ll generally experience.
For example, let’s say that you were paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a car accident that wasn’t your fault. That would be a truly catastrophic, permanent, life-altering injury. To calculate pain and suffering damages in this scenario, your lawyer might take the total amount of your economic damages and multiply it several times over.
On the other hand, suppose you suffered a few broken bones and have some subtle, but permanent scarring. While these are definitely still serious injuries responsible for meaningful pain and suffering, you’re also expected to make a full recovery within a period of several months to a year. In this case, the insurance company would use a smaller multiplier.
And if your personal injury only resulted in one or two doctor visits and no significant or lasting physical or emotional repercussions that meaningfully impact your life, you may receive very little pain and suffering compensation.
The “Per Diem” Method
Under the per diem method, pain and suffering damages are calculated on a daily basis, typically by counting the number of days that pass between the accident and your maximum medical improvement, then multiplying that by a certain daily rate.
Unlike the multiplier method, the per diem method equates pain and suffering with the amount of time it takes to recover, rather than the financial cost or the amount of medical treatment you need.
The daily rate that the insurance company uses will typically be closely linked to your daily wage, although it can (and should) be higher for particularly serious injuries. (Your attorney should advocate for the most compensation possible, highlighting factors that support your case.)
However, the per diem method can break down in situations where your injuries leave you with permanent disabilities that continue to cause meaningful pain and suffering even after reaching maximum medical improvement.
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