What is Pain and Suffering and How Do You Calculate It?

If you make a personal injury claim after a car accident, you will want to know how much your claim could be worth. Different auto insurance companies use different methods to determine the value of your personal injury claim. The claim generally includes payment for damages, such as your medical bills, lost income, and a certain level of compensation for your pain and suffering.

The term “pain and suffering” is commonly used when referencing car accidents that result in injuries. There are specific definitions for what constitutes pain and suffering. There are specific ways that insurance companies calculate that suffering for claims. In this article, we will look at the different kinds of pain and suffering and discuss how insurance companies make their calculations.

Physical Pain and Suffering

Physical pain and suffering relate to physical injuries sustained in a car crash. Broken bones, an injured spine, a concussion, etc., all count as physical pain and suffering injuries. Your physical pain and suffering began the day of the accident, continues to the present day, and will most likely go into the future. It all depends on how severe your injuries are and how long it takes you to recover. You should not stop counting the days until you are fully recovered from your injuries.

Mental Pain and Suffering

Mental pain and suffering usually occurs as a result of physical pain and suffering. You may experience:
  • PTSD
  • emotional distress
  • mental anguish
  • depression
  • shock
  • embarrassment
  • anger
  • lack of pleasure in life
In the same way that physical pain and suffering can span a long period of time, so can mental pain and suffering.

Compensatory Damages

Physical and mental pain and suffering aren’t the only types of damages you should collect. Loss of property and loss of consortium are two other factor to consider.

Loss of Property

If you had personal possessions damaged in a car accident, you should list these. You might not realize that the loss of certain items can lead to a form of pain and suffering. For example:
  • Irreplaceable photographs became lost or damaged
  • Medical professionals had to cut your wedding ring off your finger
  • A necklace with sentimental value broke due to the collision
These items held significance to you and their loss or damage caused pain and suffering. Therefore, be sure to include them in your claim.

Loss of Consortium

One of the most devastating types of loss in a car crash is loss of consortium. This means that your relationship with your spouse, partner, or other important relationship is negatively affected. You might have trouble connecting with them emotionally because of the trauma of the car crash. Your relationship might have difficulty with intimacy. You could relive the events of the car crash every time you get in the car to go out for a date. These issues all originate from the car accident and entail a loss of consortium.

How Much Compensation Can You Expect?

No two insurance companies will give you the same quote for compensating for your injuries. This is because they all have different ways of calculating your compensation. The two most popular types of calculation are the multiplier and the daily rate.

The Multiplier

As the title implies, the multiplier works by using multiplication to assess how much money you should expect for your pain and suffering. When using the multiplier, you’ll take your damages and multiply them by a specific number. Two examples of these damages are medical expenses and lost wages. Your medical expenses should cover everything: copays for doctor visits, x-rays, MRIs, EKGs, CAT scans, blood draws/labs, surgery, and any other costs. Lost earnings should include the amount of money you’ve lost from not being able to work. Also include the amount of money you anticipate losing in the future as you recover.

Let’s look at an example of how the multiplier method works. If your medical bills cost $8,000 and you lost $2,000 from not being able to work, you might multiply $10,000 by 3, which equals $30,000. If your medical bills and lost wages were higher than that, you’d probably want to multiply by a higher number. A higher number will better reflect a value equivalent to your pain and suffering.

Determining the Multiplier

So, how much should you multiply all your losses by? That’s a great question, though the answer varies case by case. The multiplier will be a number between 1 and 5. Picking the number may seem a bit arbitrary but it is mostly based on the severity of your case. Many attorneys multiply by 3 for their clients because they’re usually able to settle at that rate. At the end of the day, it’s all about settling. However, if you’re paralyzed from your accident, no attorney would go with a number as low as 3 to try to compensate for all your car accident pain and suffering. That would be unrealistic if your quality of daily life decreased and the difficulty of accomplishing daily tasks dramatically increased. That is why you’ll want to counsel with your attorney. He or she will have an idea of a reasonable settlement for your pain and suffering.

However, you might not need to choose a number to multiply by in the first place. Some insurance companies use software that determines the multiplier for you. And while this might seem like a hassle-free way to handle it, these software usually undervalue your pain and suffering compensation. The computer system will take into account factors like who caused the accident or if someone was under the influence of alcohol. If it’s determined that you caused the accident, the multiplier will be a lower number. But if a drunk driver struck your vehicle, the multiplier would be higher.

The Daily Rate

While the multiplier averages your car accident pain and suffering, the daily rate is more exact. You can calculate how much money you would normally make in a day. You can add in how much you think your pain and suffering is worth. If you are unable to work and you’re suffering from anxiety, depression, and migraines from the concussion you got, these can factor into your daily rate. The point of the daily rate is to look at how much everything combined is worth for each day that you’re affected by the car accident.
Some auto insurers today and personal injury attorneys use a daily ‘per diem’ to calculate your pain and suffering on an injury claim. Under the per diem method, there is an amount of money assigned to every day or week that you suffered from your injuries after a car accident.

Calculating Your Daily Rate

Let’s say your pain and suffering is worth $100 a day because you have a concussion and are bedridden due to severe migraines. Additionally, you lose $150 for every day you miss work. This would make your daily total $250. If you’re unable to work for a month because of the concussion alone, you would multiply $250 by 30 days. This equals $7,500.
Another aspect of the daily rate is that different factors in your suffering have different value. Say you’re able to go back to work before the concussion is completely gone. Because you’re working through the discomfort, you now believe your pain and suffering are worth $50 per day. You can multiply $50 by the number of days you work through discomfort. Say this goes on for two weeks, so your total is $700.
You would then add the $7,500 from your month of being completely unable to work to the $700 from when you returned to work. That amounts to $8,200.
If you go with the daily rate, you expect to justify it. Simply saying “this is how much my pain and suffering is worth” won’t cut it when you’re standing before a judge or even in negotiations with the insurance company. Because of this, be sure to keep track of how you make your calculations. Keep medical bills, doctor’s note, lost wages, etc., on hand for evidence.

How to Prove Your Pain and Suffering

You’ll want to have plenty of documentation to prove how much you’ve suffered. This backs up your claim and the amount that you are requesting. Here is a list of all the types of evidence that will help you prove how much your pain and suffering is worth.

  • Document all doctors appointments and keep all notes on hand. Pay specific attention to how your injury is currently impacting your life. Have your doctor explain in writing how much it will impact your life in the future.
  • Ask for letters from your specialist(s), psychologist, and/or psychiatrist. Have them write about how the car accident caused or aggravated what you are dealing with now.
  • Keep a list of all medications you have to take that due to the accident. Needing to take Xanax for panic attacks, antidepressants for anxiety, or codeine or a stronger pain reliever for a physical injury should all be on your list.
  • If you develop a permanent condition that is life-threatening or you become disabled, document this.
  • Keep a journal that you write in every day to document your symptoms. Include details about how you feel, like how many pain pills you’ve needed to take or how intense your depression has been.
  • Ask friends and family to be witnesses to your pain and suffering. Ask for details regarding how you are living daily life and how your life has changed after car accident.

While this could quickly become a chore, documenting all of this will prove your credibility. It will show that what you are experiencing is directly related to the car accident.

Arriving at a Fair Value

It is not wise to base your claim and expected compensation solely on the result of other cases. Your case is unique to you and your circumstances influence the outcome.  You can use the knowledge you have regarding pain and suffering to determine a multiplier or daily rate for yourself. From that point, you could need to adjust the expectations you have based upon several case factors, such as how severe the injuries were, whether other people were injured, whether you were out of work for a long time, and whether you seem to be a strong witness for your behalf.

Putting these factors together will help you to make a good and reasonable value for your personal injury claim. For example, if the multiplier provides a value of $18,000 and the per diem provides a value of $30,000, you could choose a rough pain and suffering amount of $24,000.

Once you and your attorney devise a number that you think works for you, then you can write a demand letter to the insurance company.

Considerations for Pain and Suffering in a Court Setting

If your car accident was severe enough that you end up in court over it, a judge or jury will decide how much money you get. There are several factors they will likely use to determine the amount. Keep in mind that neither the judge nor the jury know you personally, so the questions they ask might offend you. However their goal is to try to look at your case from an objective standpoint.
The judge and jury will determine if you are a good or bad potential witness. They will consider whether you have a criminal record and whether they think you’re being honest. They will decide if you are credible and if they like you. Of course, whether they like you isn’t objective, but every jury consists of people, and people are human.
Additional considerations include whether the details of your injuries are consistent and if your injuries are consistent with the details of the car crash. For example, a minor fender bender probably wouldn’t result in a brain bleed or spinal cord injury like getting hit by an 18-wheeler could. That is why it’s very important to keep documentation of everything. Thorough documentation will prove to a judge or jury that your pain and suffering is real, and that it’s directly related to the accident.

Find a Lawyer For Help With Your Pain and Suffering

Whether you’re in a fender bender, a head-on collision, or somewhere in between, no one ever wants or plans to be in a car accident. If you’re injured or miss work, it turns into an even bigger stressor for you. We highly recommend hiring an attorney to help you decide how to calculate your pain and suffering damages. A car accident lawyer will know how much your type of car accident is worth. They can guide you in determining how much you can reasonably expect to collect.
If you’ve been in a car accident and are currently recovering from your injuries, you may want to speak to a car accident lawyer. Reach out today to speak with a legal consultant, risk free. We can help you find the right attorney for you and get you compensation for your pain and suffering.