How Much to Claim for Pain & Suffering?
If you can prove that a car accident is someone else’s fault, you are legally entitled to the total damages necessary to pay you back for your losses. When you are in physical or emotional pain after an accident, you have lost something, and the responsible driver needs to pay you back for your ordeal the same as they will need to pay for the damage they caused to your car.
The key is to have a car accident lawyer calculate your pain and suffering damages. Auto insurance companies of liable drivers often minimize pain and suffering compensation as a tactic to keep settlements low. An adjuster will tell you that you can only get a certain amount for non-economic losses when, in reality, you deserve much more.
The best way to know how much to ask for pain and suffering from car accident injuries is to consult with a car accident lawyer right away – and before you start the claim process.
How Do You Calculate Your Damages When Injured in a Car Accident?
Calculating your damages fall into two categories.
- Economic damages measure money you actually lost, whether lost wages, property damage, or medical bills.
- Non-economic damages pay for intangible damages, but they are very tangible to you. These can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Even economic damages may be difficult to agree on with the insurance company because they will have their own story of how much you have lost. The problem is even more evident when dealing with damages based on your own experience.
Should you trust the insurance company to accurately measure your pain & suffering? NO, The insurance company will spin you a different story about pain and suffering when they make you a settlement offer. They will claim that they are as objective as possible in assessing your claim and assigning a value to your pain and suffering damages.
The Multiplier Method of Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
There are several methods that they may use to calculate your damages. The most common method that they use is the multiplier method. They will start with your medical bills and costs associated with your injuries (both past and future). The insurance company will then form its impression of the severity of your injuries. Depending on how serious they think you are injured, they will assign a multiplier to your medical bills. That becomes the amount that they offer you in pain and suffering.
Even though insurance companies have been doing business like this for years, this approach has numerous problems. The first, and most obvious problem, is that the multiplier that the insurance company chooses will always be too low. This tactic is another way that the insurance company tries to hide behind objectivity to underpay you. They may claim your injuries are not extremely serious and that you are not going through a harrowing experience.
How the Insurance Company Calculates the Multiplier
The insurance adjuster making the offer does not care that you may be in severe physical pain, nor do they care that you are going through extreme anxiety and cannot sleep at night. Your life is of no concern to them. They are simply trying to dispose of your claim and clear it off their books, paying the least possible money.
There are numerous factors that the insurance company can consider in determining what multiplier to use.
- The types of doctors that you saw for your injury
- The amount of time between your injury and when you reached a full medical recovery
If you have suffered a severe injury, the chances are that the multiplier will be on the higher end of the scale.
Just because the insurance company has assigned a specific multiplier to your claim for your pain and suffering damages does not mean that they get the final word. If the multiplier is detached from reality and does not accurately capture your damages, you can counter with a different number. You can either propose your own multiplier or an additional pain and suffering amount.
How Does Insurance Calculate Pain & Suffering?
The insurance company calculates pain and suffering with the per diem method, which measures what you endure in a day from your accident injuries. The insurance company comes up with a number to estimate your pain and suffering. Then, it will multiply that figure by the number of days that they estimate that you will be living with your injuries.
There are several ways that the per diem method may shortchange you and not pay you what you deserve:
- The per diem figure can be low and not accurately capture your authentic experience.
- The insurance company may underestimate the time in the future that you will be living with your injuries. They may aggressively assume that you will move toward healing when your injuries can be permanent or more long-lasting than the insurance company claims.
The per diem method is better suited for injuries that will heal at some point, such as broken bones. If the insurance company is trying to use the per diem method for permanent injuries, you should push back and question the basis of their position.
You Can Receive Future Pain and Suffering Damages
You can not only demand pain and suffering damages for what you have gone through in the past, but you can also receive future damages for what you will suffer. Personal injury damages compensate you for everything that you lose after the accident. You are in the position of having to predict the future and what you will experience.
While this seems complicated, a well-documented medical diagnosis will help prove what you will experience in the future. If your accident injuries are permanent or will remain with you for an extended period, you may endure considerable difficulties. Your doctor should detail what you may bear in the future due to your injuries.
Your medical records will be the key to your pain and suffering damages. The insurance company will look first at them because they are an objective statement of your condition made by an experienced professional healthcare provider. Insurers and a jury are more likely to accept your account when your doctor’s opinion backs it up.
Your Pain and Suffering Damages Depend on Your Experience
Regarding how much you should ask for, the amount of your pain and suffering damages should pay you for what you (and not anyone else) have experienced. It all depends on you and your ordeal. Two people can suffer the same injury and have different pain and suffering, no matter what the insurance company says by using a multiplier.
In any personal injury case, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate your damages. If you cannot prove it, you cannot get compensation for it. Insurance companies certainly will not give you any benefit of the doubt because it means that they need to write a check. A jury will also need proof before they can order a specific award. After proving that you are entitled to money, you must demonstrate how much money you deserve.
The Insurance Company Will Likely Dispute How Much You Deserve
Pain and suffering damages can be difficult to value because they are subjective. However, nobody will take your word for it without some testimony or proof that backs up your claim. If you want people to hear your story, you need a story to tell in the first place with evidence to support it.
To have the most robust possible case to receive the most possible pain and suffering damages, you should take steps to document your case. The key to your case is your own story. If the insurance company does not listen to your story, a jury might.
Document Your Own Experience to Tell Your Story
Keep a journal after the accident that details what you went through because of your injuries. The journal might show both the physical and emotional harm you continuously suffer. If you have a particularly rough day, note it in detail. Keeping a log will show your damages better than a multiplier that does not factor in anything about you and your ordeal.
Another way to prove your pain and suffering damages is through treatment records from a mental health professional. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression after your accident, you should seek care. Mental health care may help you, and it will also give you documentation to prove your damages.
Your family and friends can also testify about what they have seen since the accident. This testimony can be important if your case goes to court and a jury wants and needs evidence to make an award.
What Injuries May Merit the Highest Pain and Suffering Damages
Certain types of injuries will lead to more pain and suffering compensation. Permanent injuries will have the highest pain and suffering payment.
Here are some injuries that can cause permanent pain and suffering:
Even injuries that heal eventually allow you to receive compensation for your pain and suffering. For example, if you suffer a broken leg, it will cause discomfort until it heals (assuming that it does). While the pain and suffering award will not be as much, you will still be entitled to some money.
How an Attorney Will Help Your Case
An experienced attorney will help you develop a number to seek as part of your damages. Your lawyer regularly works with personal injury victims and knows how to value your claim. They will review your medical records and your accounts of your experience since the accident and combine them with their knowledge and understanding of what a claim of your type is worth. On your own, you will not know how much to ask for and that the insurance company is trying to underpay you.
You can be almost sure that pain and suffering will be one area where the insurance company will try to take advantage of you. The more subjective the area, the more room for different interpretations. If the insurance company has any ability to cut back on a settlement offer, they will take it wherever they can. Insurance companies know what your pain and suffering are when they see the evidence. You must present that evidence and then not let them off the hook when they try to underpay you.
The insurance company’s settlement offer will break out your compensation into individual elements, so you will know how much they are trying to pay you for your pain and suffering. If the insurance company is not offering you what you legally deserve, you can say no and come back with a counteroffer of your own. The chances are that they can raise their offer from the initial one that they made.
If you find yourself tempted to accept the insurance company’s initial offer, know that they likely have more room to raise it. Your lawyer will spearhead the negotiations with the insurance company, advising when and if their offer finally comes close to paying you what you deserve. If the insurance company does not write the check that you are legally entitled to receive, your lawyer will file a lawsuit on your behalf, seeking the total amount of compensation.