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How Pain and Suffering Damages Are Calculated

In California, people who suffer injuries due to negligence can file a personal injury lawsuit over the losses they incur due to the accident. If you are filing this action, there are two types of damages you can claim: economic and non-economic. Economic damages involve the financial losses you incur, while non-economic damages involve physical and emotional pain and suffering.

Calculating economic damages is simple, since the victim can provide tangible evidence to prove their presence: invoices, receipts, medical bills, and so on. However, intangible pain and suffering is more difficult to quantify, and different entities follow different calculation methods.

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

After an accident, the damages you suffer can extend far beyond medical bills and missed work shifts. You can develop injuries that can impact your quality of life and ability to engage in the activities you once loved. These are known as pain and suffering damages, a legal term that refers to any physical or emotional injuries you incur due to someone else’s negligence.

Common types of pain and suffering damages include the following.

  • Chronic pain
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of care and companionship
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of career

Since you cannot provide documentation to prove these intangible damages, it can be difficult to determine how much you qualify for. Different insurance companies use different formulas to calculate pain and suffering damages; some base the amount on the victim’s injuries, some use computer algorithms, and others use strict formulas. Two of the most common pain and suffering formulas include the per-diem and the multiplier methods.

The Per-Diem Formula

In Latin, per diem translates to per day. Under this calculation method, the insurance company will assign a dollar amount to each day until you reach maximum medical improvement. The total amount you incur over the course of your recovery period will be your pain and suffering award.

For example, say you suffer a broken leg after a car accident. You cannot return to work for 60 days following the crash, and the company assigns a $100 per diem. At the conclusion of the recovery period, the company will owe $6,000 in pain and suffering damages.

The Multiplier Method

Under the multiplier method, the insurance company chooses a certain number, known as a multiplier, based on the severity of your injury. While different companies follow different rules, this multiplier is usually between one and five. The company will then multiply this number by the economic damages you claim, producing your pain and suffering total.

For example, a spinal cord injury after a car accident may receive a multiplier of four. If you claim $20,000 for medical expenses and lost wages, the insurance company may determine you deserve $80,000 in pain and suffering damages.

Hiring an Attorney to Calculate Pain and Suffering

Whether you are filing a claim after a minor car accident or due to a catastrophic injury at work, you deserve a fair settlement. Accurately calculating your damages is an important step toward receiving the compensation you need to recover from your injuries, and a personal injury attorney can help.

Your lawyer can evaluate your case and calculate your estimated settlement before you enter negotiations, providing necessary leverage during this process. Your attorney can also evaluate any offers you receive and advocate for a higher settlement if necessary. If you have not done so already, contact your attorney as soon as possible to begin investigating your claim.

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