In 2020, personal injury cases represented 97% of civil filings in the US District Courts. Civil action enables an injured person to pursue damages for losses from a car accident or other incident. But this only applies when a person’s negligent or intentional wrongful act causes harm to another individual.
High medical bills and income losses are some financial challenges injured victims may face after a personal injury accident. However, not all damages are monetary. After suffering significant physical injuries, you may also experience extreme pain, emotional distress, and other non-economic losses.
Tort law recognizes the physical discomfort and emotional trauma you sustain after sustaining injuries as pain and suffering. It’s often the most significant harm in personal injury and medical malpractice claims. Unfortunately, putting a monetary value on this type of damage is more complicated due to its subjective nature.
Generally, the more severe and longer-lasting the injuries are, the higher the value of a personal injury claim. But various factors influence the amount of damages for pain and suffering. A personal injury lawyer with extensive experience can help you better grasp the value of a claim. They can also give you legal advice on the best way to proceed with your case.
This article discusses what you can anticipate for your pain and suffering settlement and how an experienced attorney can help.
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What constitutes pain and suffering in personal injury cases?
Understanding what counts as pain and suffering in your personal injury case is essential. Although the term has no universal definition, pain and suffering are intangible losses that victims may experience after a personal injury accident.
In most personal injury cases, claimants will be eligible for compensation for two types of damages. Economic damages are direct financial losses, such as past and future medical expenses and other out-of-pocket costs. They are easily quantifiable as the monetary costs don’t depend on the jury’s evaluation.
Meanwhile, non-economic damages cover the subjective effects of the accident and resulting injuries. Unlike economic losses, these are not measurable by bills and receipts.
Pain and suffering is the most significant component of non-economic damages. Although the loss isn’t monetary, it can substantially impact the claimant’s quality of life. Two types of pain and suffering are associated with a personal injury case.
Physical pain and suffering
This type refers to the pain of an accident victim’s physical injuries. The physical effects of these injuries can be acute or chronic. Chronic pain may persist for months or even years.
It may also include the pain and discomfort you may experience in the future caused by initial injuries. Manifestations of physical pain and suffering can include the following:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Muscle strain or sprain
- Nerve damage
- Bruising and soft tissue damage from fractures
Mental pain and suffering
Living with physical injuries and impairment can also cause intense mental anguish. Any negative emotion accident victims suffer from bodily injuries can also be attributable to mental pain and suffering. Like physical pain and suffering, it also encompasses future detrimental effects of an accident.
The emotional pain personal injury victims experience after a significant injury is often severe and long-lasting. Mental pain and suffering can be in a variety of forms, including:
- Worry and anxiety
- Psychological trauma
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Diminished quality of life
How To Calculate Your Settlement for Pain and Suffering
Quantifying pain and suffering is difficult because it’s subjective and intangible. Even if the existence of pain is indisputable, determining the severity of pain is difficult. Note that every person has different thresholds of pain and discomfort.
There’s no standard when deciding on a reasonable monetary value for pain and suffering damages. Calculations concerning pain and suffering will depend on the unique facts of your case.
Insurance companies and lawyers use the following methods for calculating pain and suffering in a personal injury settlement.
Using the multiplier method
This method multiplies the total economic damages awarded in a case by a number, typically between 1 and 5. These are the multipliers, the selection of which depends on numerous factors, including the severity of the injury.
For instance, the claimant incurred $5,000 in medical expenses and $2,000 in lost wages. The total economic loss is $7,000 in this case.
For example, the injuries were not severe, and the insurance adjuster used a multiplier of two. Based on the multiplier method, the claimant’s total pain and suffering settlement value is $14,000.
Using the per diem method
The per diem method assigns a specific dollar amount for every day you had to deal with pain and suffering due to the accident. Coming up with a reasonable rate is tricky.
Typically, calculating it uses the injured victim’s daily earnings before the accident. The rationale is the pain you suffer each day is at least comparable to the effort of going to work daily.
If you suffer permanent disabilities, you can justify using a higher rate than those who fully recover within weeks. You reach maximum recovery when medical professionals don’t expect your condition to improve or worsen.
After determining a fair daily rate, you will arrive at a non-economic damages claim by multiplying it by the number of days spent recovering. For example, your per diem rate is $100, and it took you six months or 180 days to reach maximum recovery. In this case, your pain and suffering settlement value would be $18,000.
Remember that the amount of money calculated using the multiplier or per diem method is only a rough estimate. There’s no guarantee that you will receive the same compensation. That’s why supporting the calculations with accurate facts and documentation is crucial.
How much is the average pain and suffering settlement?
Determining the average pain and suffering settlement amount is challenging because various factors will impact how much an accident victim may get.
But using calculation tools, the average payout for pain and suffering settlement is approximately $15,000. This amount will decrease for less severe injuries or increase for more significant physical harm.
Besides the type and severity of your injuries, the following factors will affect your pain and suffering damages:
- Current and future treatment
- The nature of employment before the accident
- Duration of recovery
- Impact of the damages on your life
- State laws
Higher economic losses, such as current and future treatment costs, can translate to increased compensation for pain and suffering. This variable is due to financial burdens adding emotional distress to injured victims.
The pain and discomfort you may experience may also prevent you from working for a while or returning to work. The loss of wages and earning capacity can add to your economic losses, which comprise a portion of your pain and suffering damages.
Severe injuries often require more extended periods of healing and recovery. But achieving maximum recovery isn’t always possible. Victims with little or zero chance of full recovery will likely get more compensation for pain and suffering.
Some states place a cap on non-economic losses, including pain and suffering. For instance, under Section 13-21-102.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, victims can recover no more than $250,000 for civil cases. But with clear and convincing justification, the court can increase the amount to as much as $500,000.
Another example is Section 6-1603 of the Idaho Code, which caps non-economic damages at $250,000. However, this limitation is subject to increase or decrease following the average annual wage.
Since each state has different laws regarding caps on non-economic damages, injured victims can recover different amounts for pain and suffering.
Steps to Maximize Your Pain and Suffering Damages
Insurance companies don’t often agree on the value that should be attached to an accident victim’s pain and suffering claim. But taking the following steps can help you or your loved one maximize your pain and suffering damages.
Get prompt medical treatment
The nature of your medical treatment indicates the degree of pain and suffering you experienced. By getting prompt medical help, you can obtain a proper diagnosis for your injuries.
This promptness will also help you establish the pain and discomfort of an injury. Whether it’s a decreased social contact or an alteration in your lifestyle, medical appointments, treatments, and procedures will support your claim.
Document your pain and suffering
It’s essential to document your pain and suffering after the accident. Journaling is one way to show how your injury affects your quality of life. For instance, you can keep an extensive daily record of how you feel during your recovery.
If your injuries keep you from completing a particular task, write it down. Stiffness, soreness, and sleep disruption are manifestations of pain and suffering. Document any pain or discomfort that interferes with your capacity to live a normal life.
Obtain medical records and expert testimony
Medical records will help provide descriptions of your injuries. It can also show that your injury needs ongoing medical attention. Whether it’s a diagnosis summary, treatment plan, or therapy progress notes, you can use it to grasp your pain and suffering better.
The testimonies of medical experts are also valuable in determining your pain and suffering damages. They can explain the impact of your injuries based on the pain and discomfort you may likely experience. Your primary physician, surgeon, or therapist can attest to your distress and whether your injuries will worsen or won’t get better over time.
Work with an experienced personal injury attorney
Insurers tend to pay little or zero for pain and suffering. Sometimes, they will pressure you to take lowball offers before discovering how much more you can recover.
A personal injury attorney knows the various tactics of insurance adjusters to minimize payouts. They can also help build your personal injury case from the onset and meet legal requirements.
Working with an experienced lawyer ensures you don’t lose any compensation you deserve for pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages.
How can an attorney help with your pain and suffering settlement?
Many people hesitate to hire a lawyer out of fear of high attorney fees. But proving financial damages is already challenging. It’s even more so when pursuing non-economic losses like pain and suffering without physical or visible injuries.
If out-of-pocket expenses concern you, find a lawyer who works on a contingency. You only have to pay them if they win your case or settle it out of court.
Although not every legal matter necessitates the use of an attorney, having legal representation is beneficial for numerous reasons. Specifically, here’s what an experienced attorney can do to help maximize your financial recovery from pain and suffering.
Determine accurately what your claim is worth
Since pain and suffering are intangible, claimants likely need help understanding what their claim is worth. Experienced attorneys can help you figure out what you legally deserve for compensation.
Lawyers know how much to demand your pain and suffering damages based on the complexity of your case. They also understand what factors to consider when determining your claim. It can be tempting to use a settlement calculator to estimate your damages. However, such tools won’t accurately assess your non-economic losses.
Meanwhile, attorneys will gather sufficient information to give you an accurate estimate, from the gravity of your pain and suffering to its long-term impact. Their knowledge and experience will help ensure you get fairly compensated for what you’re going through.
Investigate the facts of your accident thoroughly
Connecting the accident to your damages is critical when winning your case and securing compensation for pain and suffering. This connection is hard to make without the help of an attorney, as there are numerous factors to prove when establishing your damages claim.
A personal injury lawyer will thoroughly investigate the accident details that led to your injuries. Through this, they can provide accurate information about how the incident and resulting injury have changed the scope of your life.
Attorneys also know what personal injury law supports as the highest amount recoverable in pain and suffering settlement or award. Thus, you can be sure you get everything you’re entitled to recover after a vehicle accident or any personal injury incident.
Gather relevant evidence to strengthen your claim
Evidence about how the accident has affected your quality of life is crucial. You’ll need solid proof to demonstrate subjective losses such as pain and suffering. Otherwise, recovering this type of damage will be challenging, if not impossible.
Note that rough calculation doesn’t hold up in court or with an insurance company. You must provide evidence to solidify the numbers and strengthen your claim. Besides calculating pain and suffering, attorneys know the proper evidence to support their estimates.
You can collect evidence on your own. However, the defendant and their insurance provider will likely challenge them to minimize their potential liabilities. A personal injury lawyer is adept at countering these challenges.
Fight for the maximum compensation you legally deserve
Insurers know that most accident victims don’t understand the laws or the amount they can recover. Since they are not obligated to inform you about your rights, they will likely use that to their advantage.
However, insurance companies often struggle to contest economic damages supported by receipts and bills. As a result, they focus on reducing their exposure by discrediting claims for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses.
Lawyers are knowledgeable of the ins and outs of the law. They can use this knowledge to protect your rights and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. If reaching a fair settlement isn’t possible, attorneys can also file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf.
Seeking medical attention right after the accident is crucial. Waiting too long to get medical care could exacerbate your injuries and your chances for fair compensation. The insurance company could claim that the delay in treatment made your symptoms and suffering worse.
Seek the Best Possible Pain and Suffering Settlement With a Lawyer
Did you or a family member sustain an injury in an accident? Personal injury victims are likely to feel some degree of pain and suffering after being injured. Getting fair compensation for your non-economic losses can make up for the hardships you’ve been through and rebuild your life.
Since individuals are different in experiencing and enduring pain, the amount you’ll get for this type of damage can vary significantly. An experienced personal injury lawyer will use all available evidence to demonstrate how the injuries affected your life and family.
Fight for the best possible pain and suffering settlement with our help. The Personal Injury Center can refer you to the appropriate attorney based on your location and specific circumstances. Contact us now to obtain free consultation on your case.
Get the best legal assistance for your pain and suffering settlement. Connect with an attorney through The Personal Injury Center.
FAQs on Pain and Suffering
Do you have to pay taxes on your pain and suffering settlement?
Generally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn't impose taxes on personal injury settlements, which include compensation for pain and suffering. But what is taxable still depends on the unique circumstances of the case. You can determine whether you have potential tax obligations by consulting a lawyer and a tax accountant.
Can you pursue a pain and suffering settlement without a lawyer?
It's possible to pursue a pain and suffering settlement without an attorney. However, reaching a settlement agreement that fully compensates you for your damages may be challenging. Handling the case with legal representation can help your chances of getting fair compensation.
How can you find the best attorney for your pain and suffering case?
Finding the best attorney you can rely on is vital for negotiating the maximum pain and suffering settlement possible. Besides visiting The Personal Injury Center, here are additional strategies to help you search for a reliable lawyer.
- Get a recommendation from a trusted friend, family, or business associate.
- Look at your state bar websites for directories of attorneys.
- Contact your local Legal Aid office.