Nov 17, 2020
Victims of negligence or wrongdoing often endure pain and suffering. A personal injury civil lawsuit is a means for victims to pursue financial compensation for such trauma. However, the injured party is the only one who truly knows the extent of pain and suffering – whether physical, mental, or emotional.
Given the difficulty in quantifying pain and suffering (known as non-economic damages), how is such a subjective figure calculated when determining general and compensatory damages within a personal injury financial settlement or insurance claim?
Let’s examine how pain and suffering is defined, how it’s proven with the help of a skilled attorney via a personal injury civil claim, and how insurance companies ultimately calculate these specific damages in different types cases.
‘Pain and suffering‘ is legalese referring to the physical or emotional distress that a plaintiff may suffer following an accident. It’s an abstract term, and can come in many forms given that it can include physical and emotional pain. Physical pain is fairly straightforward, and can include broken or fractured bones, lacerations, TBI (traumatic brain injury), spinal cord injuries, etc. Emotional and mental injuries can include post-traumatic stress, grief, fear, trouble sleeping, depression, and even loss of enjoyment in life.
If you’re injured in a car accident and experience substantial pain and suffering, how do you calculate the amount of financial compensation you are owed in a civil lawsuit? While there is no exact science or calculator used in determining pain and suffering damages in personal injury lawsuits, two main methods – the multiplier method and the per diem method – are commonly used.
The multiplier method for calculating pain and suffering is the most common approach. This method involves adding all “special damages” and then multiplying that figure by a certain number (typically between 1.5 and 5 – with 3 being most commonly used). Special damages are any economic losses that are easily calculable. They can include expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
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Determining the “multiplier” or the number between 1.5 and 5 that will be used to multiply the total economic damages depends on a number of factors relative to each individual case. For instance, if you experience severe or catastrophic injuries following an accident and are facing lifelong medical care, lost wages due to disability, and a reduced quality of life, the multiplier used to calculate pain and suffering would likely be 4 or 5.
On the other hand, if you sustained some serious injuries (broken bones and lacerations) but are likely to experience a complete recovery in a matter of months, your multiplier might be closer to the average, which is 3. The degree of fault or negligence related to the accident will also have an impact on what multiplier figure is ultimately used to calculate your pain and suffering damages.
Having a skilled and experienced Dordulian Law Group personal injury attorney on your side will help ensure you recover the maximum financial damages award for any injuries you’ve sustained, including pain and suffering.
Another common approach to calculating pain and suffering is known as the “per diem” method. “Per Diem” is Latin for “per day,” and the objective in using this method is to demand a specific dollar amount for each day the plaintiff experienced pain and suffering due to an accident.
One potential drawback to using the per diem method is the challenge involved in justifying a daily rate. Regardless of the amount you and your personal injury attorney decide is appropriate, it will undoubtedly be met with resistance from the opposing defense counsel or insurance company. Typically, the daily rate is determined based on the injured plaintiff’s daily earnings. An attorney may argue that whatever the injured party earned each day prior to the accident is a reasonable figure that should be applied to determine pain and suffering damages.
Again, having a dedicated and experienced DLG personal injury attorney on your side means you have an advocate who is determined to fight for the largest possible financial compensation award for your injuries.
Let’s take a look at a settlement example for a case involving serious injuries following a car accident where the multiplier method is utilized:
Following a rollover accident involving a semi-truck, the plaintiff experienced serious injuries requiring one year of rehabilitation and medical care. The plaintiff is unable to work during that time due to the injuries and required rehabilitation. The special or economic damages include:
Given that the injuries are quite severe and the recovery process is approximately one year, let’s say that the multiplier used is 4. For this particular example, the pain and suffering damages would then equal $3.2 million ($800,000 in economic damages multiplied by 4). Therefore, the total settlement – including special/economic damages as well as pain and suffering/non-economic damages – would equal $4 million.
Let’s take a look at a settlement example for a case involving moderate injuries following a slip and fall accident where the per diem method is utilized:
Following a slip and fall accident at a local grocery store, the plaintiff experienced a spinal cord injury that will require a month of in-patient rehabilitation and three months of out-patient rehabilitation. The plaintiff is expected to make a full recovery, but is unable to work for six months following the accident due to prolonged pain.
Pain and suffering is, therefore, experienced for 180 days. At the plaintiff’s current job, she earns $90,000 annually (which equals $360 per day when dividing that salary by 250 working days each year). For this particular case, the pain and suffering damages would equal $64,800 (180 days multiplied by $360 per day).
Depending on the specific details of the case, your attorney will help you determine the best course of action for recovering pain and suffering damages. Whether the accident results in long-term pain and suffering or permanent disability will likely impact if the multiplier or per diem method is utilized (and in some cases both methods are used to determine an appropriate monetary figure).
An injured plaintiff is eligible to recover damages for pain and suffering via a personal injury compensation claim. Ultimately, however, the amount of that award can vary considerably depending on the severity of the injuries and the skill and experience level of the attorney representing the injured party. Depending on an attorney’s experience and ability, two similar pain and suffering cases can result in damages awards that vary dramatically (in some cases by hundreds of thousands of dollars). As there is no exact science to calculating non-economic damages in a civil lawsuit, the final sum often depends on your attorney’s ability to form a compelling argument that provides context to the amount pain and suffering endured.
To get a rough estimate of your possible pain and suffering damages award, take a look at our claims calculator. You will need to include basic estimates for your overall economic damages. Please note that this is only an estimate, and the final amount can vary greatly depending on a number of factors. For a more accurate picture of what you can expect to receive in damages, contact a DLG attorney today. Please be prepared to provide all the details pertaining to your case, including any injuries sustained (type and severity), if those injuries have affected your quality of life, any lost wages incurred, and any psychological or emotional trauma following the accident.
If you’ve been injured due to someone’s carelessness or negligence, one option for recovering damages is to seek compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company. This is known as a third-party claim, and does not require representation by an attorney. However, it is strongly recommended that you seek legal counsel before communicating with an insurance company regarding an accident where injuries occurred, and especially before agreeing to any type of financial settlement for said injuries.
Insurance companies are under no obligation to consider the multiplier or per diem method when calculating pain and suffering. Many insurers rely on computer algorithms to determine damages for pain and suffering. These algorithms typically look at the type of injury as well as the type of medical treatment received by the plaintiff. Other factors that insurance companies might use when determining damages include:
It is generally understood that most insurance companies view medical treatment by a physician as indicating a more serious injury (when compared to treatment by a chiropractor, for example). Insurance companies also consider the period of time that the claimant sought medical treatment. In cases where the insurance company believes the treatment relative to a specific type of injury seems excessive, they will traditionally not factor in all of the treatment when calculating pain and suffering. This is one of many reasons why it’s so important to have legal representation when pursuing damages for pain and suffering.
Insurance companies care about maintaining their bottom line, and that means issuing the smallest possible settlement whenever possible.
To recover financial damages for your injuries (including pain and suffering) your DLG attorney will work with you to gather information towards establishing responsibility on the part of the defendant. Responsibility or liability can be proven through police reports, witness statements, insurance claims, and medical records.
It’s important to prepare all relevant documents that can serve as evidence of any financial losses experienced due to the accident. Once you’ve presented the proper documentation, an experienced DLG attorney can begin the process of recovering financial compensation for medical expense, lost wages, etc. At DLG, we always pursue the maximum financial award for every client, both in terms of economic and non-economic damages. We are prepared to take every case to trial, and will proceed with the most advantageous course of action to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve following an unfortunate accident.
Insurance companies are notorious for submitting arguments contending that victims are overstating pain and suffering in an effort to recover more money. This is a standard tactic that the DLG team is well aware of and has successfully defended for decades, recovering over $100 million for clients throughout the years.
Following an injury, it’s imperative that you hire an experienced and reputable personal injury lawyer to handle your case. DLG attorneys have substantial experience in successfully dealing with insurance companies seeking to reduce claims, even those that are entirely legitimate. We will take into account every relevant factor to help determine a maximum figure for the damages and losses you suffered, including:
The personal injury claims process can be a terrible burden on the plaintiff. From the day the accident occurs through the rehabilitation process and ultimately to the eventual settlement, DLG is here to assist you every step of the way. Hiring a DLG personal injury attorney who understands and appreciates the value of your pain and suffering will help you recover the largest possible damages award.
At Dordulian Law Group, we believe that injured victims are entitled to top-rated and experienced legal representation, without having to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses. We understand that experiencing an injury can be traumatic, and the last thing you need to worry about after an accident is added stress over expenses and unpaid bills. For over 20 years we’ve been helping injured victims in the greater Los Angeles-area and throughout California recover the damages they deserve following myriad types of accidents. With our no win/no fee guarantee, you never have to worry about paying a penny upfront. If we don’t win your case, you pay nothing – it’s as simple as that. We’re confident in our abilities, and will fight to recover the maximum award for your economic losses, as well any pain and suffering endured.
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