Among the most difficult questions to answer when it comes to accidents resulting in personal injuries is how to place a monetary value on claims. Obviously, far more personal questions come first, such as whether you or your loved ones also involved in the accident will fully recover and whether the accident will have life-long impacts on you and your family.
But when those questions are put to rest, other, more practical considerations have direct financial impacts on your life. You have suffered damages to yourself and your vehicle, at least in the case of a traffic accident. Who will pay for your medical care, or to repair (or even replace) your vehicle? How much will they pay? Furthermore, how do you put a precise value on the pain and suffering you incurred because of this accident?
The short answer is, you can’t. There is no mathematical equation where you can plug in numbers at one end and get a total amount for your pain and suffering at the other end.
There are two kinds of damages you can recover in an accident caused by another’s negligence. These are known as “actual damages” (or “special damages”) and “general damages.” Actual or special damages include such things as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage—damages that are relatively easily quantified.
General damages are more subjective, harder to quantify, and include such items as pain and suffering. These damages can include:
- Emotional turmoil
- Physical pain
- Disruption of or loss of ability to enjoy daily lifestyle activities
- Loss of companionship
While there is no surefire way to calculate pain and suffering damages in an accident claim, lawsuits often yield a judgment several times greater than actual damages, indicating that the jury factors in pain and suffering even though it is difficult to quantify. Factors the jury might consider in awarding damages for pain and suffering include:
- The severity of the injuries
- The pain and discomfort associated with those types of injuries
- How the injuries have affected your ability to work, enjoy life, and fully participate in family or social relationships
- The amount of medical treatments the injuries require, and the discomfort accompanying such treatments
- How long the injuries take to heal
- Whether the injuries will result in future pain or require future care, including therapy, medications, or additional surgeries.
Even online damages calculators, which attempt to put a value on accident claims, concede that there is no formulaic way to calculate pain and suffering. The range of damages juries might award for pain and suffering is quite broad, based on no hard figures, and generally simply represents what the jury believed was the right amount.
Insurance companies generally use a multiplier of actual damages to determine how much to award for pain and suffering. The multiplier, usually based on the severity of the injury, can range from one to five times actual damages. Even then, it is not an exact science or even a consistent formula. Different insurance adjusters and different insurance companies are likely to have different multiplier factors and different ways of evaluating how to use those multipliers. Thus, the more evidence you can present regarding the severity and impact of your injuries—in other words, the better you prove that you did, do, and will experience pain and suffering—the higher the multiplier the adjuster is likely to use. How well you persuade the adjuster will determine whether the insurance company’s settlement offer for your pain and suffering damages reaches “the right amount,” or whether a jury will reach a judgment that is “the right amount.”
Given the Complexity of Establishing Pain and Suffering Damages, Hire an Attorney to Help You
Obviously, the roads and highways of this country can be dangerous places, and you always face the possibility of an injury from an accident through no fault of your own. Should this happen, for most people, the first thought is not to look for someone to sue, but to focus attention on medical treatments and recovery, getting back to work, becoming well enough to fully participate in family life, and other immediate concerns.
To obtain the “right amount,” it is important to have an attorney who can present evidence of the nature of your injuries and the immediate and ongoing impact of those injuries on your life. The more information you can give a jury about the pain and suffering from your accident, the more likely you are to recover damages—and a greater amount of compensation for your damages.
If You Were Injured in an Accident in the Chicago area, Contact the Personal Injury Attorneys of Abels & Annes
If you suffered an injury in an accident in the Chicago area, consult an attorney to determine your rights. You might recover damages for pain and suffering as well as for actual damages.
The attorneys of Abels & Annes can protect your rights when you are involved in an accident. Reach us at (312) 924-7575 or through our website.