How Are Pain and Suffering Calculated: Vital Info You Must Know

Pulaski County Circuit Court awarded $1.5 million to a nursing home resident for pain and suffering damages. According to the victim’s lawyer, the amount is meant to compensate Zelma Grissom’s agony due to inattentive medical care. Other grants have also been awarded, and the survivors of Mrs. Grissom will receive a sum of $15,706,166. 

While millions were granted to the Grissoms for pain and suffering, the awards may significantly vary in other cases. Some parties may go receive a few hundred thousand dollars, while others may claim none. It’s important for claimants to establish a well-founded claim to maximize their potential compensation.

Notably, no average payout for pain and suffering exists. Besides parties living with different circumstances, no law imposes a uniform calculation for pain and suffering in personal injury claims. 

Proving worthiness in court to receive compensation for physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress requires high-level legal knowledge. Thus, working with a reputable personal injury lawyer to explore your legal options is best. They can thoroughly explain the possible ways of calculating pain and suffering.

Before filing your claim, visit The Personal Injury Center to learn more about economic and non-economic damages. Our online resource center can offer valuable information to help you better understand legal matters related to personal injury claims. 

Key Takeaways
  • Pain and suffering are compensable injuries that cause physical discomfort and emotional distress to victims.
  • Parties should observe state limits when filing pain and suffering claims.
  • The “multiplier method” and “per diem method” are the two most common ways of computing pain and suffering.

Pain vs. Suffering

Many use pain and suffering interchangeably. Although they share similarities, they have distinct meanings. When filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is helpful to distinguish one from the other to illustrate the facts of a case better.

Pain is a complex sensation signaling an injury in the body. As pain worsens, it may complicate other physical symptoms and reduce a person’s quality of life. 

In comparison, suffering is the interpretation and reflection of experiencing pain. It involves the inconvenience, embarrassment, and incapacity a person suffers from an injury.

Legally speaking, “pain and suffering” is a collective term. It pertains to the discomfort and emotional distress arising from physical injuries. It can be compensable as non-economic damages, which claimants typically raise in a personal injury case. Injured parties may also file for other compensatory damages depending on the circumstances.

In a car accident, an injured person suffering insomnia during rehabilitation may seek pain and suffering damages. The inability to sleep well due to an accident injury can be incredibly distressing. Besides medical bills, the at-fault driver should compensate for the injured party’s emotional pain.

Pain and Suffering vs. Bodily Injuries

Some may confuse pain and suffering with bodily injuries. Bodily injuries are cuts, bruises, broken bones, and any disfigurement that an injured party acquired because of another person’s negligence. It is irrelevant whether the impairment in the victim’s body is permanent or temporary.

Different states require different types of car insurance. One type of basic auto insurance is bodily injury liability coverage. It requires a policyholder’s insurance company to compensate for the physical injuries a third party experienced. For instance, the insurance would pay for the injured party’s medical expenses from an auto accident.

The bodily injuries that a person suffers may cause them pain and suffering. In such instances, injured parties may raise pain and suffering as an added cause of action in a personal injury lawsuit. 

In worse cases, the victim’s bodily injuries may lead to their death. But even if the victim dies, their representatives may still pursue claims for pain and suffering

Dimensions of a Pain and Suffering Claim

Pain and suffering claims comprise multiple factors that make each claim unique. Identifying a claim’s dimensions can be instrumental for injured parties to support their claims before an insurance company or in court. 

Here is an overview of the three dimensions of a pain and suffering claim:


In the medical field, multiple categories of pain according to duration exist. The two main types include acute and chronic pain.

Acute pain is a sudden pain that goes away quickly. It occurs due to a specific trigger, and once the patient treats the source of the pain, the acute pain dissipates too. 

In contrast, chronic pain is an ongoing sensation that lasts more than six months. This type of pain may continue despite treating the primary injury or disease.

The severity of the injuries

The Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC) designates the severity of the injuries parties incur during a car accident. The ranking from most severe to least severe is as follows:

  • Fatal injury
  • Suspected serious injury
  • Suspected minor injury
  • Possible injury
  • No apparent injury

Generally, severe cases result in significant economic losses and medical costs. Patients with severe injuries also need more time for rest and rehabilitation before returning to their everyday lives.

Life impact

Injuries from accidents can be so severe that injured parties develop a loss of enjoyment of life. Victims may no longer engage in the same activities or lifestyle they had before the accident. For example, an athlete can no longer play sports due to permanent injuries sustained in a car crash.

Moreover, injured parties may also suffer from loss of consortium due to the death or disability of a loved one. 

Ways To Prove Pain and Suffering

It is more challenging to prove general damages than special damages. Special damages, like property damage, are tangible and easily quantifiable. In comparison, general damages, like pain and suffering, are non-physical and do not have a specific dollar amount.

Injured parties seeking compensation for pain and suffering must present well-established factual evidence to secure a favorable judgment. To do so, they just gather the following documents to justify their claims:

Medical records

Medical records serve as evidence of the treatments prescribed to alleviate the injured party’s pain and suffering. They can also contain detailed accounts of how the patient suffered and reacted to every medical treatment. The explicit details can help the court or jury imagine the agony an injured party went through.

Medical bills

The billing receipts from the hospital confirm the costs associated with the patient’s medical treatment, as stated in their health records. Typical costs involve tests, medications, and therapies to manage the claimant’s pain and suffering. When making estimations, the court or jury may infer from the value reflected in the official receipts and financial statements.

Medical testimony

The testimony of licensed medical professionals can corroborate medical evidence. Courts may value their opinion as expert witnesses with technical backgrounds on specific matters. For example, psychologists may testify that the injured party’s mental anguish resulted from physical injuries sustained in a car accident. 

Victim’s testimony

Injured parties may provide personal statements explaining their side of the story. They may share an introspective view of their distress and provide details that others may not perceive. After all, pain and suffering are personal, and everyone’s experience is unique. 

Testimony of family and peers

Friends and family members of the injured parties may file affidavits strengthening the pain and suffering claims. They may detail observations of how the victims displayed grief and agony. Their perspective may give the court or jury a more comprehensive view of the situation.

Pain journal entries

Injured parties can benefit from keeping a pain journal to track their experiences and record specific information. The more detailed the entries, the better. The journal may reflect patients’ pain level fluctuations and real-time reactions to medical interventions.

Damages Cap on Pain and Suffering Claims

A damage cap is a statutory rule limiting the amount of compensatory damages in personal injury claims. Advocates for damage caps argue that the imposition benefits local and national economies. For instance, excessive payouts may encourage parties to repeatedly target establishments, especially hospitals, eventually driving them out of business.

Only six states, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Virginia, impose total caps on medical malpractice claims. Total caps refer to damage caps on economic and non-economic damages.

Currently, non-economic damage caps for product liability cases exist in eight states. Similarly, twenty-three states impose non-economic damage caps on medical malpractice cases. Most damage caps range from $250,000 to $700,000.

How is pain and suffering calculated?

There is no standard for calculating pain and suffering. However, legal and insurance experts often rely on the multiplier and per diem methods to make reasonable estimations.

Multiplier method

The first step using the multiplier method is adding all special damages. After, the court or insurance company will multiply the sum with a multiplier. Depending on the injuries’ severity, the multiplier can range from 1.5 to 5. 

For instance, the special damages in a car accident claim total $10,000, and the court finds the injuries gravely severe. Multiplying $10,000 by 5, the pain and suffering compensation estimate is $50,000.

Per diem method

Per diem in Latin means “per day.” To compensate for non-economic damages, the parties will agree on a per-day price tag. The claimants will multiply the per diem amount by the number of days they experienced pain and suffering.

Let’s say the parties agree to a $150 per diem value. The injured party suffered for thirty days before recovery, so the at-fault party should pay $4,500.

Which one to use?

Parties can use the multiplier or per diem method, or both. Likewise, they may agree to a different calculation, but the results should still be reasonable and fair. It does not matter what the estimation is as long as the injured party receives adequate compensation.

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Expectations When Settling a Pain and Suffering Claim

The lack of a fixed price tag for pain and suffering makes settlements highly dependent on party negotiations. Even when the at-fault party is willing to pay, it is rare for injured parties to receive their exact demands. For those who have not experienced negotiating pain and suffering claims, expect the following to happen:

At-fault parties will downplay your injuries

It is uncommon for at-fault parties to downplay the degree of pain and suffering that injured parties felt. However, many use this tactic to lower or dismiss claims for non-economic damages.

Insurers will haggle over the settlement price

After receiving a claim, insurers will send an insurance adjuster to review an incident thoroughly. Although insurance adjusters derive estimations from factual evidence, they will likely present a lower settlement price than the injured parties asked.

You may need to compromise

Agreeing to a lower settlement can hasten and simplify the negotiations. But claimants may seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer or law firm to avoid being excessively short-handed. Likewise, know your rights before agreeing to an offer.

Reasons Insurance Companies Deny Your Claim

Insurance companies have the authority to honor or dismiss claims for policy coverage. Avoid the following causes to lessen your chances of disapproval:  

Insufficient proof

Claimants should detail their demands and present pertinent evidence. Self-serving statements do not hold value, and insurance companies will easily dismiss them. For pain and suffering, claimants must establish the causes of their misery and the contributing factors that worsen their conditions.

Statute of limitations

The statute of limitations is the timeframe a victim may sue at-fault parties for their injuries. The time limit may vary depending on the injury claims and relevant state laws. For example, the limit for filing claims in a car accident case in California is two years.

Parties may lose legal standing when they do not file their claims within the statute of limitations.

Victim caused medical complications

Insurance companies may deny coverage for pain and suffering when the injured parties are liable for worsening their health condition. For instance, a man may forfeit his health insurance eligibility upon knowingly traversing a dirty sewer despite having open wounds. Insurers may establish that the cause of the injury was the claimant’s actions.

Delayed or lack of medical interventions

Insurance companies may also deny claims to injured parties who purposefully delayed or denied necessary medical treatment. The delay or denial of medical intervention may trigger other conditions that cause the claimant’s pain and suffering.

Presence of pre-existing injuries

The injury covered in an insurance policy may not be the reason for a claimant’s pain and suffering. In some cases, the injured parties may already suffer from other conditions that negatively affect their mental health.

Did you know?

The payment of damages for pain and suffering dates back to ancient Rome’s first written law, the Twelve Tables. Plaintiffs could seek compensation based on the outraged feelings they developed due to the injurer’s ill will.

Work With an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer 

Calculating pain and suffering compensation is complex. The amount depends on the circumstances unique to every case. Courts and insurers often utilize the “multiplier method” and “per diem method” to estimate the value injured parties can receive. Since there are no standard computations, parties may choose to use either, both, or none.

Working with a personal injury lawyer is advisable despite one’s preference for estimating pain and suffering damages. A legal counsel can provide valuable information expanding your options in filing justiciable claims.

Connect with trustworthy and experienced local lawyers at The Personal Injury Center. Take a free case evaluation, and we will provide you with recommendations based on your results.

You deserve fair compensation for your pain and suffering. Find first-rate and experienced personal injury lawyers through The Personal Injury Center. 

FAQs on Calculation of Pain and Suffering

Yes, injured parties may file damages for future pain and suffering. The injuries may have been so traumatic that the patient continues to experience distress even after rehabilitation. However, justifying future pain and suffering claims in court can be challenging.

Personal injury lawyers assist in establishing well-grounded claims so the court, jury, or insurance company will grant the demanded compensation. They may also act as negotiators during the settlement process. Moreover, attorneys could perform clerical and technical duties to advocate for their client's causes properly.

Automobile insurance policies typically cover the injured party's pain and suffering under bodily injury liability coverage. However, claimants should take note of coverage limits. After maxing out the insurance, claimants should file directly against the injurers for surplus damages.