In legal terms, pain and suffering refer to the emotional and psychological trauma after a personal injury, such as an auto accident. Pain and suffering are considered general damages that are less tangible than special damages, such as medical bills.
Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case
It is sometimes difficult to separate injuries into specific categories of physical and emotional suffering. For example, if your leg was broken in a car accident, you have aches, pain, and temporary or permanent limitations because of the broken leg.
Other examples of pain and suffering in a personal injury case include:
- Loss of consortium
- Embarrassment from disability or disfigurement
- Diminished quality of life
- Potential restrictions on daily activity and life expectancy
How Compensation for Pain and Suffering Is Determined
Compensation for pain and suffering is subjective. For example, how does an insurance company or the court place a value on the mental anguish of becoming paralyzed? Unlike a straightforward expense such as a doctor’s visit, pain and suffering are more complex to determine.
Insurance adjusters often rely on a mathematical formula called a multiplier. A multiplier combines general and special damages to reach an acceptable settlement for both the plaintiff and the defendant.
Factors That Influence Compensation for Pain and Suffering
Special damages – medical bills, car repairs, and similar tangible costs – are simply added. To calculate general damages such as pain and suffering, several factors are taken into consideration:
- The severity of your injury and duration of treatment
- Length of recovery
- Perceived pain of your injuries (for example, a broken foot compared to a sprained ankle)
- Any long-term consequences from your injuries
- Your age and overall health before the accident
- Potential decrease in earning ability or not being able to work
Many insurance companies calculate pain and suffering through the multiplier method. The total sum of your special damages is multiplied by a range of factors. Some ranges are 1.5 to 5, and others are 1 to 10. Serious or long-lasting injuries are typically multiplied by a higher number. Minor injuries are multiplied by a smaller factor.
Settlements Versus Verdicts
Juries are not always bound to follow the same methods as insurance companies. There are many intangible factors in a personal injury case that may result in a positive outcome at trial. It is also possible that the jury will not favor the plaintiff. That is why you should consult a personal injury lawyer to understand your legal options.
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