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What Counts as Pain and Suffering?

Most of us have heard the term ‘pain and suffering,’ but what does it mean when it comes to getting a fair car accident settlement? What counts as pain and suffering? Below is more information about this important legal phrase.

Pain and Suffering Definition

In a legal case, there are two kinds of pain and suffering:

  • Physical pain and suffering: This is the actual pain related to physical injuries from the accident. It is not just pain and discomfort that you have suffered to date. It also is the effects of the pain that you will probably suffer in the future due to the negligence of the defendant.
  • Mental pain and suffering: This is the mental byproduct of the physical pain and the mental trauma of being injured. Mental pain and suffering include emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of your life, anger, humiliation and shock. Mental pain and suffering are defined as negative emotions that you can suffer from having to deal with physical pain and trauma of an accident.

Some of the worst mental pain and suffering can be depression, anger, and loss of appetite. Others can include sexual dysfunction, low energy and disturbances in sleep patterns. Mental pain and suffering do not include merely the effects that you have suffered to date. It also is the suffering that you will probably have in the future.

Pain and Suffering Examples

As an example, assume that you have a car accident that causes several broken bones and a concussion. This is a serious accident. Because of your injuries, you become angry and depressed. You also have trouble sleeping and do not want to eat. You then need to go to a therapist and psychologist. These problems are all related to the accident, and you would usually be entitled to payment for mental pain and suffering.

Mental pain and suffering from an accident can be bad enough that it stops you from going back to work after your injuries have healed. In this type of case, your depression from the car accident could stay with you for a long time after your injuries have healed. You would be able to still claim damages even after the injuries are gone, such as lost wages.

Another example would be a car accident where you suffer a back pull. Because of the back injury, you are not able to exercise for several weeks. This prevents you from running the marathon that you trained for. You are feeling angry, depressed and unhappy. While you may not need mental health assistance, this situation still could qualify as mental pain and suffering.

How Pain and Suffering Is Calculated

Judges in personal injury cases do not provide juries much to decide how much pain and suffering compensation should be awarded. There is not a chart that shows how much the jury should give you based upon a particular injury. In most states, the judge will just instruct a jury to use ‘good sense,’ background and experience to decide what a fair figure is for pain and suffering compensation.

You might have heard about a multiplier that is used in many personal injury cases. This is where pain and suffering may be determined as being worth a multiple of your total lost earnings and medical bills. The multiplier is typically considered between 1.5 and 4. This means your pain and suffering award would be 1.5 to 4 times the amount of your tangible, physical damages. But the multiplier is just a rule of thumb; it does not apply in every personal injury lawsuit. The multiplier concept is most appropriate for minor injury lawsuits when damages do not exceed $50,000. But even with a smaller claim, use care when applying the multiplier.

There are many things to consider that affect the value of your pain and suffering. Consider:

  • Whether you are a good or bad potential witness
  • Whether you are likable and credible
  • Whether your testimony about injuries is consistent
  • Whether you seem to be exaggerating about your pain and suffering
  • Whether the jury believes that you were truthful or not
  • Whether your claims, injuries and diagnosis are logical to the jury
  • Whether you have a criminal record

Another way that your pain and suffering can be determined is with the per diem method. This method uses a calculator for pain and suffering to determine damages. A certain dollar amount will be assumed for each day from the time of the car accident until you have reached maximum medical improvement. This term means the point at which your accident injuries have healed as much as they possibly can.

The number used is usually reasonable, such as $100 per day. For instance, if you have an accident in your truck on May 5, and you are deemed to be fully recovered by October 20, then a total 169 days have elapsed. With a per diem method, you would get $16,900 if the per diem is $100.

Yet another way to determine pain and suffering damages is to use a job description to decide the amount. This means that you and your attorney would write out your pain and suffering like a job description. What would you have to be paid to fulfill that ‘job’? For instance, if your accident put you in a wheelchair for six months, how much would you need to be paid if you sit in a wheelchair daily for six months? Would you need to be paid $5000 or $50,000?

Some attorneys like to use the daily rate of the healthcare specialist to decide how much your pain and suffering is worth.


Pain and suffering in a personal injury case refer to both mental and physical pain. Determining how much it is worth in dollars is complex and requires the help of a personal injury attorney. Use our website to find a skilled personal injury attorney in your city or state.

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