Putting a dollar amount on pain and suffering is complex. The lawyers at Maho | Prentice, LLP Attorneys at Law recommend that you speak to a personal injury attorney about what your case is worth. The insurance companies use two methods to compensate for pain and suffering: the per diem method, which is used less often, and the multiplier method.
What are damages?
There are three types of compensatory damages you can recover in a personal injury claim: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to deter future violations of the law and are not considered when calculating your economic damages or pain and suffering. You should address any questions you have about potential punitive damages to your attorney.
Economic damages compensate victims for the financial losses stemming from their accidents. Your total medical damages are determined by adding all the costs in your medical bills. They include all medical expenses, including:
- Prescription medications
- Outpatient services at a doctor’s office
- Rehabilitation services with a physical therapist
- Medical devices
Additionally, if your injuries prevent you from going to work, you will be compensated for the time you have missed already, but you could receive compensation for your future lost earnings if your injuries prevent you from going back to work in the foreseeable future. Your employer verifies your hourly rates or your salary. If you are an independent contractor or self-employed, you can talk to your attorney about how your lost wages will be calculated.
Then there are miscellaneous expenses related to your accident. For example, in the case of a car accident, the damaged vehicle is an expense. If you are unable to care for your children, buy groceries, or must rely on public transportation after your accident, then expenses related to those needs can be covered in your settlement.
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering. The law recognizes that the whole person is affected when they are involved in any type of accident. The loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, loss of the use of a limb or organ are all types of non-economic damages. If you have had post-traumatic stress disorder related to your accident or other mental distress, and you have sought therapy, then that is essential information to provide to your personal injury attorney.
How is pain and suffering calculated?
Economic damages are quantifiable and non-economic damages aren’t. One way of attaching a dollar amount to pain and suffering is to use the multiplier method. With this method, all of the economic damages are combined to come up with one dollar amount that encompasses all of the financial losses the victim suffered. Pain and suffering, then, is determined by using a multiplier between 1.5 and five. The greater the suffering of the victim and the more emotionally anguishing the accident was for them and their family, the higher the multiplier. In cases of wrongful death, the multiplier could even be as high as 10.
An example better illustrates this method. Ben is involved in an accident, resulting in trauma to his head and left arm. He is rushed to the emergency room by an ambulance and undergoes surgery. The doctors are able to help Ben to live, but his arm was so badly damaged that it was amputated. His wife and his children have been by his side while he was in the hospital, completely changing their family life forever. Although Ben’s wife worked, he was the breadwinner of the family as a construction project manager. He was also very involved in his kids’ lives and was physically active, often volunteering at their school. With the loss of his arm, however, he is unable to ever do some of the things he did with his children, and it will certainly affect his business. Even if he is able to eventually go back to work in a less physical capacity, the accident forced him into an unexpected career change. As you can see from this example, the accident had a far greater impact on his life than just his health. If his total medical cost were $200,000, his multiplier could be as high as five to compensate him for suffering, resulting in a $1 million settlement.
With the per diem method, you are compensated for each day you experienced pain and suffering. “Per diem” is Latin for “per day,” but this method of paying a day rate for pain and suffering is used less often.
With a compassionate attorney by his side who will guide him throughout the process of filing his claim and who takes a genuine interest in his improvement, Ben can get what he deserves from the person or entity who caused the accident.