How to Calculate Pain and Suffering in Personal Injury Cases

Need an Attorney right now? You've come to the right place.
By Marcus Fernandez

If you sustain injuries in any type of accident and believe that another party’s negligence caused the accident, you may be able to recover compensation from the liable party. The first step will be to identify the defendant in the case who was at fault, after which you will need to be able to prove the damages resulting from the accident before seeking compensation. Specifically, the money paid to cover the monetary and non-monetary losses suffered are referred to as damages. The damages involved in personal injury cases can include various items such as medical expenses, along with pain and suffering experienced. Determining the precise cost of pain and suffering can be more challenging because monetary values aren’t necessarily assigned to these damages based on bills or receipts.

In most cases, if someone is injured as a result of another party’s negligence, they are entitled to compensation for both monetary and non-monetary damages. While monetary damages are relatively easy to calculate, the process of calculating the cost of non-monetary damages is more complicated. Non-monetary damages are also more difficult to prove in personal injury cases.

What Exactly Is Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering in personal injury claims is any kind of physical or mental distress resulting from an injury. Pain and suffering could include physical injuries and discomfort associated with those injuries, along with mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, or embarrassment resulting from both the accident and subsequent injuries.

In personal injury law, pain and suffering is a kind of damage called “general damages.” General damages are compensated for by individuals or entities whose negligence resulted in an accident and injuries, either intentionally or accidentally. The total amount owed to accident victims will vary depending on medical expenses, ongoing treatment required, wages lost due to time taken off from work for recovery, and other aspects of the case.

Compensation for pain and suffering could account for what the claimant has had to endure because of the accident, which the victim wouldn’t have experienced had the accident never occurred. For instance, an injury could result in a parent’s permanent inability to engage in a physical relationship with his or her spouse, which compensation would help cover beyond medical bills.

General vs. Special Damages: What’s the Difference?

As discussed, pain and suffering is categorized as “general damages.” General damages are the kinds of damages that are more difficult to gauge on a monetary level, including various kinds of mental and physical trauma or loss of consortium. General damages don’t come with bills or receipts that make it easy to place a monetary value on them.

Some specific examples of general damages include:

  • Physical pain and suffering 
  • Mental anguish and pain 
  • Lower quality of life resulting from the accident, such as immobility and reliance on others 
  • Physical injury or impairment 
  • Loss of employment and continuation of a career due to physical or mental limitations 
  • Loss of companionship, often from accidents resulting in wrongful death 

Special damages, on the other hand, are damages that are comparatively easy to monetize, including medical bills, damaged property, and lost income. Because they are often easier to place a monetary value on, special damages are often easier to recover in personal injury claims.

Examples of special damages include:

  • Total cost of medical expenses 
  • Total cost of lost income 
  • Price of damaged or lost property 
  • Prices of repairs to damaged items 
  • Cost of domestic services and home care services 

Many cases involve a combination of general and special damages that make it more of a challenge to calculate the total amount of compensation the claimant deserves.

How to Calculate General Damages

There are several ways to calculate pain and suffering, or general damages, in personal injury cases.

The Multiplier Method

The formula for the multiplier method is as follows:

(past and future medical bills) x (multiplier) +(total amount of monetary losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, and medical bills) = Reasonable value of the personal injury cases

The multiplier in this equation will be a number between 1.5 and 5, which is determined based on the severity of the injuries sustained, with the numbers representing the degree to which the pain amplifies the economic cost. For example, a multiplier of 5 would indicate that the victim’s pain and suffering are worth around five times the amount of the economic loss.

Keep in mind that insurance companies will work to reach a lower multiplier while the claimant’s is likely to be higher.

The “Per Diem” Method

Attorneys or insurance companies may also use the “per diem” (“by the day”) method to calculate pain and suffering. The “per diem” method entails covering a certain dollar amount every day starting when the accident occurred all the way up to the time the victim experiences maximum medical improvement (MMI). The number could be something like $150 per day for a certain number of days leading up to the time the patient reaches MMI, which for a period of 150 days would come out to around $22,500.

Other Ways Attorneys and Insurers May Calculate Pain and Suffering

In addition to the two core methods, some insurance companies and lawyers may use others to determine how much a case is worth, depending on the nature of the accident and injuries.

Some professionals may look at the pain and suffering as a job description worth a certain amount of compensation. For example, someone who sustains an injury requiring the use of a wheelchair for a long period of time could warrant compensation for the amount of time they are required to use that device as if it were a job duty.

There are many other ways that individuals and companies may calculate general damages, depending on their specific processes and the case discussed.

Staying within the Limits of the Insurance Coverage

Both monetary and non-monetary damages are typically limited to the amount that the insurance policy can cover. For instance, a victim may wish to sue for millions in damages, but the insurance policy may only allow for a maximum of $100,000, in which case the plaintiff won’t be able to seek more than that maximum.

Speak with an Attorney to Learn More About How Much Your Case Is Worth

If you believe you have a personal injury claim and would like to find out how much compensation you may be able to seek, consult with a KFB Law personal injury attorney. An experienced lawyer will be able to help determine if you have a case and assist with calculating the amount of compensation you may be able to receive for both pain and suffering and special damages.