A term you’ve almost certainly heard before is “pain and suffering.” You may have wondered what it means, if it’s even a real consideration, and how often pain and suffering actually come into play when determining an insurance settlement or lawsuit judgment.
What is Pain and Suffering?
In any personal injury lawsuit, there are different types of “damages” a person experiences. These damages are losses for which the at-fault party is responsible. One type is economic loss – which just means the calculable, financial loss such as the cost of your car, the cost of your medical expenses, and so on. Another type of damages is non-economic.
Non-economic losses can include things that can’t be easily calculated or put onto a spreadsheet. For example, economic loss may include the cost of your hospital stay, but it doesn’t take into account your pain, anxiety, and stress which can easily upend an otherwise normal life.
Pain and suffering compensation is given with these non-economic losses in mind. While everyone knows that there is no way to take away pain and suffering, we all acknowledge that appropriate financial compensation should be provided to ensure that the non-economic damages in a persons life don’t make things any worse.
So how do you calculate pain and suffering?
Naturally the next questions is: how can you put a dollar amount on pain? How can you come up with compensation for injury related depression?
Believe it or not, there are actually multiple approaches that insurance companies rely on when calculating the financial value of a persons pain and suffering. The ones we deal with most often are called the daily rate method and the multiplier method.
This is the most common approach to pain and suffering. When you file your personal injury lawsuit this is the method your attorney will probably use. The way this is done is by taking all the economic damages (such as property, medical, loss of income, etc.) and multiplying those numbers by 3 or 4.
Naturally, insurance companies hate this, but they agree to it when it’s reasonable and when your case would obviously be bad news for them. They may quibble about the multiplier number used and suggest that a lower number is appropriate in cases where recovery seems certain. Only you and your attorney can decide what’s appropriate for you based on your condition, your future, and needs.
Daily rate method
Another method is the “per diem” calculation. This simply means there’s a flat dollar amount that is multiplied by the number of days you experience pain.
Insurance companies will try to lower their costs by suggesting a lower daily rate. We suggest a reasonable daily rate is something similar to your actual daily earnings. After all, living with pain due to your injuries is at least as difficult as going to work each day.
Naturally this method falls apart in the case of permanent or long-term injuries. It’s also unlikely that the insurance company will recognize suffering such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other injury related psychological traumas and instead insist on paying only for physical pain. Obviously if your insurance company offers you a settlement on a per-diem method you should first consult with a personal injury attorney.
Evidence of pain
A common experience we have is when a client experiences pain, but fails to seek medical care for it. For example, a person may have back and neck pain, but be worried about the expense of seeing a chiropractor or doctor. Often, simple depression can cause somebody to fail to seek adequate treatment for pain. However, without evidence of ongoing pain, demonstrated by regular visits to doctors or pain management specialists, it is difficult to get an insurance company to accept a higher settlement.
If you have been injured and you are in pain, it’s very important that you seek medical care. Not only can it help you heal faster, but it can provide valuable evidence should your case go to trial.
Every case is unique
The bottom line is that every case is unique. While pain and suffering are real, there’s never a simple way to compensate you for it. Nor is it always possible to prove to the insurance companies or courts the extent of your pain. Insurance companies may initially offer a low settlement value but then, when confronted with more evidence, may agree to a drastically higher settlement.
Because every case is unique, and so many factors go into determining how much a personal injury case is truly “worth,” it is essential to speak with an experienced attorney who can consult with you on what has happened, what your rights are, and what’s fair. Contact us today. We’re here to help.