How much is my personal injury case worth?” is one of the most common questions people ask a personal injury lawyer. Out-of-pocket expenses, such as those for medical treatment are relatively easy to compute using medical records and receipts. Employment records can be used to prove lost wages.
Compensation for pain and suffering cannot be proven with receipts or records. This article offers an overview of how a car insurance company and your car accident lawyer calculate the compensation you should receive for physical pain and emotional harm caused by an auto accident.
What is pain and suffering?
You may hear your car accident lawyer refer to the time you lost from work and your medical expenses, economic damages, or special damages. Economic damages can be easily proven from bills, receipts, and payroll records.
Pain and suffering refers to the physical and emotional stress and anguish experienced by car accident victims. It is a type of non-economic or general damages because it is difficult to assign a dollar amount to it. You cannot prove how much pain you were in by producing a receipt. There are, however, ways that lawyers and insurance adjusters use to calculate pain and suffering.
Who pays for pain and suffering in a car accident?
A study found that 93% of auto accidents are caused by human error. An at-fault driver who was speeding or engaging in other forms of unsafe driving activities can be held responsible to pay damages, including pain and suffering.
The process to make the at-fault driver pay begins with a car accident claim filed by a car accident attorney. Some of the evidence a personal injury attorney gathers to prove fault and pain and suffering include the following:
- Medical records.
- Medical bills.
- Police accident reports.
- Victim’s employment records.
- Photos of the accident scene.
- Photos of the injuries.
The evidence will prove fault on the part of the other driver and is also used by your lawyer to calculate special damages. The insurance adjuster uses the same evidence to downplay the damages you claim to have suffered in order to minimize what the insurance company has to pay.
How is pain and suffering calculated?
There are two methods used to calculate the value of a suffering claim. One of them is the multiplier method.
Insurance adjusters take the total of all of the economic damages you have and multiply it by a number between 1.5 and five to arrive at the dollar value of your claim for special damages for pain and suffering. The multiplier chosen is based on the severity of your injuries.
For example, a traumatic brain injury is a serious injury that could be fatal or cause permanent disability and severely affect your quality of life. The insurance company may assign it a five based upon the severity of the injury. Minor injuries, such as a broken arm, may be assigned a multiplier of 1.5.
The other method used to arrive at a dollar value for a suffering claim is the per diem method. This method takes a daily amount and multiplies it by the number of days that you experienced pain and discomfort caused by the injuries suffered in a car accident.
The tricky part about the per diem method is choosing the daily amount. Whatever daily rate your personal injury lawyer or the insurance adjuster select must have something to support it. A daily amount chosen at random will only result in the other party challenging it. One method that attorneys and insurance companies frequently use to select a daily rate is the yearly earnings of the injured person.
How much should I sue for as pain and suffering damages?
It is important to keep in mind that the methods used to calculate damages for pain and suffering are not hard-and-fast rules. For example, an insurance company may assign a different multiplier based upon its evaluation of the severity of an injury than the one used by your lawyer. It is best to be guided by the legal advice of your car accident lawyer about the amount to sue the fault driver for special damages.
What is the average settlement, and what is the maximum you can get?
As you may have already figured out by now, the methods used to place a dollar amount on pain and discomfort represent points from where to begin negotiations to settle a claim with an insurer. Even if your attorney and the insurance company use the same method to calculate damages, the results could be vastly different.
For example, the insurance adjuster may assess your car accident injury as less severe and assign it a lower multiplier than the one used by your attorney. Each car accident claim and the car accident injury in each case is different, so the best source for an idea of how much your claim may be worth is a free case evaluation by a personal injury lawyer.
A factor to keep in mind about car accident injury cases is that some states impose a limit on the maximum amount of special damages, including pain and suffering, that may be awarded to a claimant. The lawyer handling your car accident case can go over the laws in your state and how they may affect the maximum amount of money you may receive from the fault party as special damages.
How can I prove my pain and suffering?
Jurors who must decide your personal injury claim when it goes to court cannot feel the pain and discomfort you experienced. Your car accident attorney wants jurors to understand the severity of your injuries and the pain and discomfort they caused. Records that may be used as evidence include the following:
- Medical records and reports that include complaints made to doctors about pain and discomfort you experienced.
- Testimony from experts, including specialists in pain management, supporting your claim of physical pain and discomfort.
- Photos emphasizing the severity of the injuries.
Your attorney may also use testimony from friends, relatives, and coworkers about their observations of signs of pain and discomfort that you exhibited when in their presence.
Your choice of personal injury lawyer makes a difference
Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation and case review to take the guesswork out of choosing the right personal injury lawyer. It also gives you a chance to get answers to questions you may have about the pain and suffering damages you may be entitled to based upon the facts of your case.
Steve has been writing legal-centric articles for several years now. He started working with the personal injury attorney law firm Herrig & Vogt in 2019 as the Content Marketing Manager, which has allowed him to expand on his writing in personal injury, family law, and much more. Steve strives to offer the public advice on various laws covering a variety of practices.