Some damages stemming from an auto accident are pretty easy to calculate. You grab your receipts and bills, add up the amounts, and you’re left with a total. You submit the total to the insurance company and wait for your settlement check.
However, what about damages that don’t come with bills or receipts? How do you come up with a total for non-economic damages? Calculating pain and suffering damages is more than guessing at an amount. You need to know what these damages entail and how much they’re worth in your personal injury case.
What are Pain and Suffering Damages
Pain and suffering is a term frequently used to describe a long list of non-economic damages. What are non-economic damages? These are damages that don’t come with a handy price tag. For example, property damage and medical expenses are economic damages.
The bills and receipts give you a total of the expenses you’re paying or owe relating to the accident. Non-economic damages are intangible, meaning there isn’t an easy way to determine the financial value.
So what’s often included in pain and suffering damages? The list can be extensive, but some examples include:
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Lost enjoyment of life
- Lost reputation
- Fear relating to the accident – you may be fearful of getting into a motor vehicle
- Fear of re-injury
When it comes to disfigurement and scarring, you may also be able to claim the medical treatment as economic damages. However, the pain and suffering that often accompanies the injury is a non-economic damage.
How Non-Economic Damages are Calculated
Since you can’t just grab a calculator and total your expenses relating to non-economic damages, determining the cost is a little more complicated. However, there are two methods insurance companies, juries, and judges frequently use.
You can calculate your pain and suffering using either the multiplier or per diem methods. One method isn’t necessarily better than the other but one may be better suited for your case.
Using the Multiplier Method
The multiplier method is fairly simple to understand and use to calculate damages relating to pain and suffering. You start by assigning a number to your pain and suffering, typically one through five. One indicates a less severe injury, and five indicates a more serious issue.
Once you assign a number to your injuries, go back to the total of your economic damages. Take this total and multiply it by the number assigned to your injuries. The total represents your non-economic damages.
For example, if your economic damages total $100,000 and your multiplier is 2. Your pain and suffering damages are $200,000. You’re also not limited to using whole numbers. You can assign partial numbers like 2.5 to your non-economic damages.
If you’re looking for a simple way to calculate pain and suffering, the multiplier method may be your best option, and this method also works great if you’re dealing with long-term injuries.
You can assign a higher number to your injuries to help ensure your continuing expenses are covered long after your case is closed. Remember, you can’t reopen a closed personal injury claim even if the settlement doesn’t cover all of your damages. The multiplier method can help prevent this issue from happening.
The downside is limiting your pain and suffering to a single number, as this method may not be able to accurately represent the amount of pain and suffering your injuries are inflicting on your life.
Using Per Diem
Per diem means by the day, and this method is commonly used to help accident victims calculate non-economic damages like pain and suffering. Instead of assigning your injuries a number to denote severity, you look at the cost per day starting with the accident date.
If you’re wondering how insurance companies decide on the daily cost of your non-economic damages, they typically refer to your wages. The insurance company will take your average daily pay and add it to your settlement offer.
Here’s an example of how per diem can be used to calculate your pain and suffering. Your daily pay is $50 and your pain and suffering have been going on for ten days. Your non-economic damages are calculated at $500. However, don’t set this number in stone. The courts and/or insurance companies can adjust this number up or down depending on your case.
So, when is it best to use the per diem method? If your non-economic damages are easy to define, then you may want to use per diem to calculate your total, and this includes when you have a set date for the start of the pain and suffering and know when it’s expected to ease.
A broken arm is a good example since the pain and suffering typically end once the cast is removed and you complete any physical therapy.
However, if you aren’t sure when the pain and suffering will ease, the per diem method may not be your best option, and this can also apply if your wages are at the high or low end of the pay scale. Higher-earning individuals will probably see their per diem amounts decrease. If your earnings are below average, your per diem may not be enough to cover your damages.
Determining the Final Cost of Your Pain and Suffering
Before you get too excited about your potential non-economic damages, remember these are only calculations. Just because you’ve managed to come up with a total, this doesn’t mean it’s the amount you’re going to receive.
You’ll still need to go through the negotiation process with the insurance company, and chances are they’re not going to immediately write you a check. There will be some back and forth before an acceptable settlement is reached.
Sometimes, negotiations fall through, and your personal injury claim ends up in civil court—now it’s up to either the judge or jury to award you damages. They may use your calculations or come up with their own; it’s something you should prepare for.
With help from an experienced personal injury attorney, you can successfully determine the final cost of your pain and suffering and receive compensation that covers your damages.