After sustaining injuries in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may recover damages for the harm and the resulting pain and suffering. Some of the accidents you can seek pain and suffering compensation for sustained injuries may include motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, dog bites, nursing home abuse, workplace accidents, etc.
Generally, the damages allowable comprise economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage are pretty easy to compute and justify.
For instance, if the injuries cause you to miss work, you could quantify your lost wages by multiplying the daily wage rate by the number of days you did not work. In the same way, your medical bills and other charges related to your treatment can support your claim for medical expenses.
Unfortunately, when it comes to non-economic damages, pain and suffering, in this case, there is no definite way of putting a dollar amount to the losses. Nonetheless, the pain and suffering you endure from accident injuries impact your life in untold ways.
For instance, if you develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression due to the overwhelming burden of the injuries, it may affect how you interact with people. This can compromise your performance at work or business and slow your progress.
Essentially, insurance compensation reinstates you to the financial position you would be in if the accident did not happen. For this reason, you need a lawyer who can compute and negotiate for a fair pain and suffering settlement.
What Is Pain and Suffering Damages?
Pain and suffering represent the physical, mental, and emotional agony you endure due to injuries sustained in an accident.
Injuries that could cause pain and suffering include:
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal organ injury
- Limb loss
- Muscle strain
- Neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI), etc.
What constitutes a fair settlement depends on the severity of your pain and suffering. In addition, the insurance company considers several other factors when awarding the damages.
For instance, if you had a car accident and claim damages for back pain, the award may be higher if your car was totaled instead of a situation where the vehicle sustains only minor scratches. The assumption is that the impact could have been higher in the former scenario, leading to more severe back injuries than in the latter.
All the same, there is no limit to the types of pain and suffering damages you can demand as long as you can justify the claim.
Some common examples include:
- Physical Pain - Any injury on the body results in physical pain. Whether you suffered neck and back injuries, TBI, chest trauma, muscle strain, broken bones, cuts, and bruises, etc., you can claim damages for the resulting pain.
- Physical Disability - Where the accident results in a physical disability such as loss of limb, immobility due to spinal cord injury, etc., you can claim damages for the suffering.
- Disfigurement - If you sustained severe injuries that disfigured your body, you may recover damages for disfigurement.
- Mental Anguish - If you have developed PTSD, depression, anxiety, or any other mental issue due to the trauma from the accident, you may recover damages for the suffering.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life - If the injuries have deprived you of the ability to do the things you used to do before the accident, you can claim compensation for the loss. For instance, if you lost your hearing ability and can longer drive or enjoy interacting with other people.
- Inconvenience - If the injuries incapacitate you, you may recover damages for the resulting inconvenience. For instance, if you lost a limb, there are activities you may not be able to do or do as fast as you used to, even with assistive devices.
- Embarrassment - If the injuries result in a condition that embarrasses you, it can develop into a psychological problem over time and affect your quality of life. Hence, you can seek compensation for the damage.
- Loss of Companionship - If the injuries have limited you from enjoying your partner’s company, you can recover damages for the suffering.
- Grief - Those who have lost their loved ones through a wrongful death caused by someone else’s negligence can claim damages for the emotional anguish.
- Loss of Guidance - This is another pain and suffering damage that the children of a deceased person who died through wrongful acts of another person can claim. The loss of a parent deprives the children of parental guidance; hence, they can recover damages for the resulting suffering.
How Is Pain and Suffering Settlement Calculated?
There is no carved-in-stone formula for calculating pain and suffering damages. However, once you receive a settlement offer from the insurance company, your attorney can help you determine whether the pain and suffering compensation offered is fair.
Two main methods are used to calculate pain and suffering damages are multipliers and per diems.
The multiplier method uses the quantifiable/economic damages to approximate the value of your pain and suffering. This involves multiplying the figure of the special/economic damages by a range of 1.5 to 5.
The number (multiplier) applied depends on various factors (discussed in the next section). For instance, if you suffered severe injuries that are not permanent, resulting in economic losses of $6,000, using a multiple of 3, your pain and suffering settlement would be $18,000 ($6,000 x 3).
Per Diem Method
This is another method used to calculate pain and suffering damages, though less common. It involves demanding a particular dollar amount for your daily suffering then multiplying the figure by the number of days you have lived (or projected to live) with the pain.
One way that may be used to estimate the value of your daily pain is to approximate it to the work you do in a day. In this case, the attorney may use your daily earnings then multiply the amount with the days you have lived or expected to live with the pain.
For instance, if your daily wage is $200 and you endure pain for six months or 180 days, your pain and suffering settlement could amount to $36,000 ($200 x 180).
Contact an attorney to help with calculating the damages you should pursue.
Factors That Affect Pain and Suffering Damages Calculation
Several other factors determine how insurance companies and attorneys calculate damages for pain and suffering.
- The severity of the injuries
- Current and future treatment
- The extent of the physical and mental suffering
- The nature of your employment before the accident
- Impact of the damages on your life
- Degree of the at-fault party’s liability
- Recovery duration
- State laws, etc.
Generally, no single factor can determine the amount of compensation you deserve for non-economic damages. As discussed earlier, a fair settlement for pain and suffering takes into account the current and future agony from the injuries and the overall implication on the rest of your life.
For instance, if you suffer permanent scars on your face or lose a limb, your pain and suffering settlement should compensate not only your immediate pain but also any losses you are likely to experience due to the disfigurement or disability.
Proving Pain and Suffering
You must support your pain and suffering claim with evidence. Though non-quantifiable, the distress you endure following an accident injury affects your life in unfathomable ways. That is why it is essential to demand a fair settlement to compensate you for the indirect losses from the accident.
Some of the evidence you can present to prove your claim includes:
- Medical and mental health professionals’ reports
- A list of prescriptions and therapies received
- Medical bills
- Testimony from friends and family members on how the injuries have affected your life
- Photographs of your injuries
- Eyewitness statement
- A journal of your pains and symptoms
- Expert testimony
Do You Need a Lawyer to Win a Fair Settlement for Pain and Suffering?
You can estimate your pain and suffering damages as shown above or wait for the insurance company to quantify the amount for you. However, the downside of taking this option is that you might end up leaving money on the table.
It always helps to have a lawyer experienced in personal injury settlements working on your case. The types of pain and suffering damages we discussed earlier are just a few examples of the effect the injuries may have on your life.
A lawyer who has handled similar cases before, preferably in your specific type of accident, can provide insight on all the ways the injuries might affect you in the future and seek compensation for those losses. This is because once the settlement is finalized, you cannot go back to claim additional damages for emerging issues.
Among other things, an attorney can:
- Advise you on how to document medical records
- Help you gather the necessary evidence (eyewitnesses’ statements, police report, CCTV camera footage, investigate the at-fault party for additional information to prove liability, etc.)
- Organize for expert testimony
- Compute fair pain and suffering damages
- File the claim on time
- Negotiate for a fair settlement
Every state has unique laws on personal injury cases, including pain and suffering claims. Without knowing these laws, you might fail to approach the case from an informed perspective. Engaging an attorney helps eliminate such limitations and allows you to exercise all your rights while avoiding potential legal pitfalls.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the maximum amount for pain and suffering settlement?
While the amount you receive largely depends on your injuries and their impact on your life, most states cap the amount of pain and suffering compensation you can receive in a settlement. However, there is no cap to the damages in a state like Pennsylvania unless the suit is against the government or a local agency.
For instance, if the personal injury case is against the Commonwealth, the cap on damages is $250,000, while a claim against a local agency cannot recover damages above $500,000.
How can I maximize my pain and suffering compensation?
You can maximize your settlement by:
- Gathering and presenting enough evidence to prove liability and back up your claims
- Documenting all medical reports, including doctor’s notes, prescriptions, bills, mental therapist’s notes, X-rays, emergency room records, etc.
- Journaling your pain and symptoms
- Filing the claim on time
- Collecting eyewitness and expert witness statements
- Hiring a personal injury attorney with a track record of representing clients with similar injuries
How much will I pay the attorney for representing me?
There is no fixed attorney fee for cases similar to yours. However, most personal injury attorneys charge their services on a contingency basis. That is, they only recover their payment after winning the settlement. However, you may need to pay administrative costs such as photocopying expenses, phone charges, expert witness fees, etc., while the case is going on.
A contingency fee is based on a percentage, and the rate varies from one attorney to another. Most lawyers charge 33 1/3 percent of the settlement, but the rate may increase if the case goes to trial.
Should I accept the insurance companies’ first settlement offer?
In most cases, no. Insurance companies are after minimizing their losses, so their settlement, especially the first offer, is not in your best interests. Once you receive the offer, it can be essential to consult an attorney to advise you on whether the settlement is fair. If you decide to reject the offer, the attorney should help you prepare a fair demand to counter their offer.
Is pain and suffering settlement taxable?
Not at the federal level the IRS exempts personal injury compensation from taxation. However, some states limit this exemption to cases where pain and suffering result from physical injuries. They may tax the settlement if the suffering is purely due to emotional or mental harm.
Can I file a lawsuit for pain and suffering?
The law allows you to file a lawsuit for pain and suffering you may have experienced due to harm caused by the negligent actions of another person. However, you must present solid evidence to prove the at-fault party’s liability and support your claim for damages.
Note that every state has a statute of limitation outlining the deadline within which you should file a lawsuit. In most states, you must file within one to six years. Contact an attorney today to learn more about your legal options moving forward.