In a personal injury case, whether an auto accident or a slip and fall, there are two primary categories of recoverable damages (“damages” meaning the expenses that the at-fault party has to compensate you for). These two categories are the economic (“special”) damages and the non-economic (“general”) damages. Medical bills, lost income, and property damage are all economic/special damages and fairly easy to calculate. The difficulty lies in calculating the value of pain and suffering, which are non-economic/general damages, along with emotional distress, anxiety, and the like.
“Pain and Suffering” Defined
Pain and suffering is a fairly broad legal term used to cover a variety of injuries and kinds of discomfort. This umbrella term covers not only actual physical pain, but emotional, mental, and psychological injuries and resulting conditions such as insomnia, fear, worry, grief, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life. Many times in personal injury cases, you can in fact recover at least some damages for pain and suffering, and sometimes when circumstances warrant it, a very large amount.
Methods for Calculating the Value of Pain and Suffering
But before you can recover any damages, that is, receive compensation, someone has to calculate the value of your pain and suffering. You will have some input here, but this is mostly hammered out between your attorney and the insurance people. While there is no set rule about how insurance companies and attorneys must calculate the value of pain and suffering, the two primary ways are:
THE MULTIPLIER METHOD
This method first totals your actual special damages – medical bills, lost wages, and so on – and then multiplies that figure by a specific number, typically a number between one and five depending on the extent and severity of your injuries. So, for example, if the medical bills you incurred for a broken leg amounted to $5,000, you could multiply that by three to arrive at a figure of $15,000 as the reasonable value of your pain and suffering.
THE PER DIEM METHOD
With the per diem method, a certain monetary amount – say, $100 – is designated for each day in the period of time from the accident up until the plaintiff (you) reaches maximum recovery. So under the per diem method, if it took you 90 days to reach maximum recovery and each day was deemed worth $100, the calculated value pain and suffering would be $9,000.
Insurance companies, however, are not obligated to use either of the above methods to determine the value of your pain and suffering. They may use alternative methods based on their own value-calculation programs to determine the amount of general damages and the settlement amount. Typically, such programs factor in both the kind of injury and the kind of medical treatment.
If, for example, you received medical treatment from a physician, this would likely be considered more serious and compensable than if you received treatment from a chiropractor. The duration of treatment would be another factor in the calculation. But you do need to be aware that insurance companies will be less likely to include all treatments(s) in the calculation if any of it appears to be excessive.
Proving Pain and Suffering
Although damages for pain and suffering are certainly recoverable, the difficult part lies in proving this kind of injury. Typically, proving the injuries will require extensive and varied evidence presented by an attorney who specializes in these kinds of cases – if, that is, you intend to recover a satisfactory amount.
Typical proof here would include not only medical records, but also photos and personal journals that detail both your physical and emotional condition. Similar documentation from family and friends can further strengthen your case. Proof of treatment by a mental health professional is always a plus if you are seeking damages for anxiety or depression.
Importance of Medical Records
The goal of insurance companies is not to pay or at least pay as little as possible in compensation for claimed damages. As a result, official medical records become extremely important, so be sure to communicate with your doctor(s) and report all symptoms you are experiencing. Insurance adjusters will likely accept as true whatever written report a doctor provides, but will dispute claims of pain and suffering if they are just your own personal report.
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Personal injury claims and cases that seek to recover damages for pain and suffering are very complex and, as a result, call for a great deal of legal experience and skill in this arena. Accurately calculating the value of pain and suffering is no easy task. So contact an experienced member of the Trusted Lawyers Network to discuss your claim or case.