When you file a lawsuit seeking compensation for a personal injury, there are usually two types of damages available. The first, known as economic damages, are typically easy to calculate. For example, to recover your medical expenses, you simply collect your bills and receipts to figure out the amount you are out-of-pocket. However, non-economic damages, often referred to as pain and suffering, are much more difficult to quantify. How do you put a dollar amount on the effects of a whiplash injury suffered in a car accident?
What is Pain and Suffering?
First, it is important to understand what pain and suffering is in a personal injury claim. Pain and suffering refer to the physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish a person experiences as a result of being injured by the negligent conduct of another person or party. These types of damages are not calculated by adding up receipts or piecing together financial records.
Some common examples of pain and suffering a person could experience after a motorcycle accident or slip and fall include physical pain and discomfort, physical limitations, anxiety, depression, insomnia, loss of consortium, or psychological trauma. This list is only partial. Because of the uniqueness of every individual and the potential impacts of an injury, the type of emotional harm a person suffers varies greatly.
Calculating Pain and Suffering
So how do you quantify in dollars and cents the amount of pain and suffering an injured person endured? The two most common methods used are the “per diem” method and the “multiplier” method.
Per Diem Calculation
Getting its name from the Latin phrase meaning “each day,” the per diem method works by determining a dollar amount for each day that an injured victim suffers because of their accident. For example, a person injured in a rear-end collision could suffer a neck injury that impeded their ability to work and play with their children. A Maryland personal injury attorney would apply a daily amount that would reflect the person’s discomfort and inability to engage in their everyday activities. The amount used would be multiplied over the number of estimated days the injured person would endure their pain and suffering.
The more common approach to pain and suffering damages is the multiplier method. Under this approach, an injured person’s total economic damages will be multiplied by an appropriate number given the circumstances of the accident or injury. Typically, this number ranges from 1.5 to 5 to represent the victim’s total suffering. For example, a 1.5 multiplier might be used for a fractured arm, while a 5 could be deemed suitable for an amputation injury.
Proving Your Pain and Suffering Claim
Calculating your pain and suffering damages is only part of the equation. In order to be awarded any compensation, you will have to be able to demonstrate that your pain and suffering is legitimate.
No matter the type of injury or accident, a personal injury attorney will have to present evidence to support your pain and suffering demand.
One of the most compelling types of evidence is your medical records and testimony from your medical providers. For example, your doctor might provide written testimony that you are restricted to lifting a certain weight, are experiencing nightmares, or are not permitted to drive for a specific amount of time. By providing proof of the physical damage your body endured plus expert medical opinions of how your injury affected your ability to perform ordinary activities, a personal injury attorney will work to justify the amount sought.
Medical records are only part of the story. Many injuries, such as soft tissue damage or specific back injuries, are not readily apparent on diagnostic tests or x-rays. By relying on the testimony of family members and other witnesses such as neighbors, a personal injury attorney will try to demonstrate the daily impact an injury has on a person’s life. For instance, if you were severely hurt in a truck accident, you might not be able to cook meals, engage in yard work, or look after your children. Testimony could not only help prove what you are unable to do but also how you feel about your inability to function normally.
What You Can Do to Help Calculate Your Pain and Suffering
An injured person also plays a vital role in calculating and proving their damages for pain and suffering. Photographs of your injuries could be persuasive in demonstrating the physical pain and discomfort you endured. Additionally, a picture of the mangled wreckage of an accident also provides a graphic depiction of the trauma you experienced.
It is important to remember that pain and suffering is not limited to your physical experiences. Accident victims and injured persons are entitled to recover for their emotional and mental distress. By keeping a journal of how you feel, a personal injury attorney can have access to your daily emotions and frustrations. For example, you could highlight your inability to sleep, your fear that an injury will be permanent, the humiliation in having to request help for personal care, the heartache of missing important events, or the sadness and depression that accompanies your injury.
Pain and suffering are much more difficult to prove than your financial losses but could be a significant part of your settlement award. While many cases settle before going to trial, an insurance company will rarely calculate pain and suffering damages in your favor. It is essential when speaking with an insurance provider after an accident or injury not to downplay your injury or give any indication that you are “feeling fine.” Any statement that contradicts the evidence you or your attorney present could decrease your potential compensation.
Interesting Related Article: “How to Prove Your Pain and Suffering After a Personal Injury?“