Did you know that you can recover compensation for physical and emotional distress in a personal injury case? This type of distress is called “pain and suffering,” and it falls under the category of non-economic damages. This means that while pain and suffering is real and valid, it does not have monetary value like other types of damages, such as medical bills or lost wages. Defining pain and suffering in a car accident claim (or any type of personal injury claim, really) is very difficult because everyone has different pain tolerances. Calculating pain and suffering is even more difficult. Below, Chicago personal injury lawyers at Curcio Law Offices explain how to calculate pain and suffering in the average personal injury lawsuit.
If you have experienced catastrophic injuries and emotional distress after an accident, you need a top-notch personal injury lawyer on your side. We can help you figure out exactly how much you deserve in your settlement check, and above all else, we can defend your legal rights. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation at our law firm today.
What is Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering is one of many types of personal injury damages that generally describes the emotional and physical pain someone experiences during a traumatic accident. A person may experience both mental anguish and physical pain after a car accident, a dog attack, a workplace injury, a slip and fall accident, or a medical malpractice incident, for example. An injured person could file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party in order to recover financial compensation.
Determining pain and suffering damages is much more difficult than determining other types of damages in a personal injury claim. That’s because you can’t put a dollar value on physical and emotional pain like you can for medical expenses, for example.
Also, everyone has different tolerance levels for physical pain and emotional distress. There are plenty of signs and symptoms that can indicate both physical and emotional pain, but even still, there is no way to know how bad the pain actually is. There is no test to show exactly how much pain someone is feeling. These factors make it very difficult for both insurance companies and attorneys to accurately calculate pain and suffering in a personal injury case.
Types of Injuries That May Qualify for Pain and Suffering Damages
People who suffer from the significant injuries listed below may be able to recover pain and suffering damages.
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Permanent nerve damage
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Vision and/or hearing loss
- Permanent disability
- Major infections from dog bites or medical malpractice
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Determining the Severity of Pain and Suffering
Because there is no test out there that shows the severity of someone’s physical and emotional suffering, insurance adjusters and personal injury lawyers must determine this pain in a different way. An experienced attorney or insurance adjuster may consider the following questions to determine the severity of someone’s pain and suffering:
- How long did the physical or emotional trauma last?
- How severe was the bodily injury?
- Is the victim in therapy and/or taking psychiatric medications in order to cope with the mental distress of the accident?
- How did the pain and suffering affect the victim’s life, career, and relationships?
- How extensive was the medical treatment after the accident?
- Is the victim able to function and care for themselves on a day-to-day basis?
- How long did it take for the victim to make a complete recovery from their injuries?
- Has the victim reached maximum medical improvement (MMI)?
Types of Evidence That Can Prove Pain and Suffering
Accurately valuing pain and suffering also requires lots of evidence, such as:
- Medical bills
- Medical records
- Medication records
- Paperwork showing missed work days and total lost income
- Mental health counseling bills
- A statement from the mental health counselor about how well the injury victim is coping after their accident
- Pictures and videos from the accident scene
- Police report about the accident (usually applicable in a car accident case)
- Witness statements from people at the accident scene
- Witness statement from loved ones during the recovery process
- Pictures and videos of your injuries/disabilities
- Personal journal entries that document your physical and mental state of mind during the accident and during the recovery
After considering all the aforementioned questions and pieces of evidence, you’re probably still wondering: how are pain and suffering damages calculated?
How to Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages
It’s so much easier to calculate economic damages (lost wages, medical bills, etc.) than non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.). That’s because economic damages have a set monetary value and non-economic damages do not. So lawyers and insurance adjusters typically use one of two methods when it comes to calculating pain and suffering: the multiplier method and the per diem method.
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method is the most common method that insurance adjusters and legal teams will use when it comes to calculating pain and suffering. This is how it works.
A lawyer will add up economic damages, such as medical expenses. Then, they will assign a pain and suffering multiplier – usually ranging from 1.5 to 5. 1.5 represents the least severe pain and suffering and 5 represents the most severe pain and suffering. The lawyer will multiply the economic damages by the assigned number. The answer is how much pain and suffering damages an injured person should receive in their personal injury settlement.
For example, let’s say that someone suffered a concussion, lacerations, and multiple broken bones in a car accident. The victim was able to fully recover from their injuries within 6 months, but now suffers from post-concussion syndrome which affects their ability to function on a daily basis.
Let’s say their car accident-related medical bills add up to about $10,000. Let’s also say their lawyer assigns a pain and suffering multiplier of 3 to their car accident case, because the car accident and their injuries were severe, but they were still able to recover. However, the victim will be suffering from the effects of post-concussion syndrome for the foreseeable future, which impacts their ability to work, socialize, and enjoy life. $10,000 multiplied by 3 is $30,000. So the victim would receive about $30,000 as part of their pain and suffering settlement.
The Per Diem Method
The per diem method is less popular when it comes to calculating compensation in a pain and suffering claim. “Per diem” means “per day” in Latin. So a lawyer or insurance adjuster would assign a specific dollar value to every single day that the victim suffered physically or mentally from their accident. Some professionals will base the daily dollar value on the victim’s daily lost wages. The logic here is that your pain and suffering – and the effort it takes to recover from a traumatic accident – is worth at least as much money that you’re missing on a daily basis at work.
This method is less popular mostly because it’s difficult to assign an appropriate dollar value. Also, the amount of time it takes to recover from physical injuries is often different from the time it takes to recover from emotional trauma. You can recover from lacerations and broken bones from a car accident within a few months. But the actual emotional distress from the accident may stick around for years to come. In cases like this, the per diem method would not accurately portray the severity and time frame of pain and suffering.
Can I Recover Pain and Suffering Damages Through an Insurance Claim?
Yes, most insurance companies will offer a pain and suffering settlement after a car accident, for example. But depending on the details of your car accident case, your state laws, and your specific insurance company, you may struggle to prove the severity of your pain and suffering.
That’s why it’s crucial to reach out to a Chicago personal injury lawyer at Curcio Law Offices before you try to seek compensation from an insurance company. Insurance companies are practically known for low-balling their clients after car accidents. After an event as physically and emotionally traumatic as a car accident, you are in a very vulnerable position. So you may not realize when an insurance company is low-balling you. Our legal team can do all the settlement negotiations for you so that you can receive the pain and suffering damages that you deserve.
Call Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers at Curcio Law Offices Today
If you have suffered major physical and emotional trauma from a car accident, a work accident, a slip and fall accident, a dog attack, or even a negligent doctor, you have grounds to sue for your personal injuries. The experienced lawyers at our law firm have decades of combined experience in handling all sorts of personal injury lawsuits. We can be your personal pain and suffering calculator so that you can recover the personal injury settlement that you deserve. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation today.