Contrary to what most people believe, the type of compensation one can receive through the personal injury claims process after being injured due to someone else’s negligence doesn’t just involve the cost of their medical expenses and wage loss. Personal injury claims also commonly include what is known as non-economic damages — or pain and suffering damages in regards to how is pain and suffering calculated
What Is “Pain and Suffering”?
Pain and suffering refers to the psychological toll that the personal injury claimant’s injuries have had on their life, such as pain, discomfort, anguish, and inconvenience.
Types of Pain and Suffering Damages
In legal claims, the term “damages” refers to compensation received for harm. Common types of pain and suffering damages sought in personal injury claims include:
- Physical pain and suffering from the injury itself, medical complications that were incurred as a result of the injury, and particularly painful procedures used to treat the injury.
- Emotional distress, including trauma from the accident, stress about the expenses of the injury, or depression over the physical changes the claimant has endured as a result of their injury.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life involves the loss of the ability to participate in hobbies or activities that were important to the claimant before the accident occurred.
- Loss of consortium refers to the loss of physical intimacy and companionship between the claimant and their spouse that often accompanies serious injuries.
Usually, the more severe the injuries are, the higher the value of pain and suffering damages becomes. This is because more severe injuries have a higher likelihood of resulting in more extended hospitalization and medical intervention, more days missed from work and a greater chance of permanent injuries that will cause chronic pain and create difficulty for the person in living independently or earning an income.
How Pain and Suffering Is Calculated
The problem with claiming pain and suffering damages is that — unlike economic damages such as medical bills and wage loss — there is no specific dollar amount attached to the pain and suffering an individual experiences after an injury. Because of this, the claimant’s attorney determines the value of non-economic damages and the overall value of the claim through a formula that generally involves these three steps.
- All the monetary expenses incurred due to the accident and injury are added together. This includes medical expenses, wage loss, permanent loss of earning capacity, and the value of the claimant’s personal property that was damaged in the accident. These expenses are the total amount of economic damages in the claim.
- The economic damage total is multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 5. The more serious the injury, the higher the multiplier. This new sum is the total non-economic (pain and suffering) damages for the claim.
- The total economic and non-economic damages are added together to develop a value to the claim.
Factors that Can Impact the Claim’s Value
The severity of the injury is a major factor in determining the amount of pain and suffering damages to seek through the claim. However, there are other factors that can impact the claim’s value as well. One of those factors is how much insurance the liable party had. Personal injury claims are almost always compensated through the at-fault party’s associated liability insurance policy, such as an automobile or homeowner’s policies. These policies have limits, which are the maximum amount of compensation that is available to pay out on the claim.
Liability is another factor that can impact the value of the claim. Many accidents don’t have a single source of liability but are caused by negligence from multiple parties. Personal injury claimants are often permitted to seek compensation even if they were partially to blame for the accident that caused their injury. However, their own liability will usually reduce the amount of compensation they can seek from other liable parties.
How a Lawyer Can Assist You with Your Personal Injury Claim
A personal injury lawyer brings experience and understanding of the process to assist their client in many ways, including:
- Determining liability and insurance resources involved in the case.
- Establishing a claim value that will cover past and future financial and psychological costs of the injury.
- Communicating with the at-fault party’s insurance provider in order to negotiate a settlement that fairly compensates the claimant.
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit in court within the state’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims.
- Gathering evidence, documentation, eyewitness, and expert testimony in order to prove liability and justify the claim’s value.
- Litigating the claim in court on their client’s behalf.
- Assisting the claimant in receiving their negotiated settlement or award.
Personal injury lawyers usually work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they do not get paid for the services they provide to their claimant until the claim reaches a positive resolution. This allows anyone who needs the assistance of a personal injury attorney to obtain help, regardless of their ability to pay before they’ve received compensation.