If you find yourself injured in a car accident – like millions of Americans do each year – you may be able to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. While the first two are fairly easy to quantify, it’s often much more difficult to attach dollar signs to pain and suffering.
What is Pain and Suffering?
“Pain and suffering is a legal term that refers to a host of injuries that a plaintiff may suffer as a result of an accident,” AllLaw.com notes. “It encompasses not just physical pain, but also emotional and mental injuries such as fear, insomnia, grief, worry, inconvenience and even the loss of enjoyment of life.”
If medical bills and lost wages are objective expenses, pain and suffering is highly subjective. While you’ll almost always be awarded some compensation for your pain and suffering, it’s up to you and your attorney to provide the extent of it. A failure to do so could severely limit the value of your claim.
How is Pain and Suffering Determined?
“An injury won’t just cost you in time and money—it will also affect the quality of your life. Injuries can prevent you from participating in many of the activities you enjoy. They can even rob you of your independence, leaving you unable to dress or bathe without assistance,” Greenstein & Milbauer explains. “Pain and suffering aren’t easily quantifiable, but your settlement should account for what you’ve been through all the same.”
Pain and suffering can be determined via any number of methods. However, plaintiff’s attorneys typically use one of two formulas or systems:
The multiplier method is by far the most common approach to attaching a dollar amount to pain and suffering. Under this method, damages are added together, and the total is multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 5. This second number is known as the multiplier.
The multiplier is assigned based on a number of relevant factors related to the case. These factors may include the seriousness of the injuries, the impact of the injuries on your day-to-day life, your prospects for a quick and total recovery, and the amount of fault the other party has for the accident. A multiplier of 1.5 indicates a low degree of pain and suffering, while a multiplier of 5 indicates a very high degree.
Daily Rate Method
While less frequently used, the daily rate method – also known as the “per diem” method – calculates pain and suffering based on a daily multiplier. You add up things like lost wages, medical expenses, etc. on a daily basis and formulate a rate. You then determine how many days of pain and suffering there are. The two numbers are multiplied for a total dollar amount.
For example, let’s say your daily rate is $275 and there are 215 days of pain and suffering. Multiplied together, you get a total of $59,125.
Maximizing Your Pain and Suffering Award
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you want to maximize every dollar of compensation you receive. Pain and suffering is typically the part that will make or break your claim. In light of this, there are two simple and honest ways you can maximize the value of your case:
Hire the Right Lawyer
Legal representation is by far the most important factor in any personal injury case. As soon as you’re in a stable medical condition, you should contact and hire a car accident attorney to represent you on your behalf. However, not all attorneys are created equal.
You want an attorney who is experienced with car accident cases and known for being a good negotiator. It all comes down to negotiations in the end and you want someone who can fight for your rights.
Secondly, your attorney has to prove fault. In some states, you have to prove that the other party was 100 percent to blame in order to obtain any compensation. In other states, the percentage of blame you can successfully assign to the other party will be directly reflected in your payout. (In other words, you’ll get more money if you can prove the other driver was 80 percent to blame, versus just 60 percent to blame.)
Keep Your Options Open
“It’s always a good idea to use both methods to start, and then adjust your demand from within that range,” AllLaw mentions. “You may get wildly different numbers, and that’s okay—it all boils down to a negotiation dance at the end.”
The more you keep your options open, the better your chances are of obtaining an award that’s fair and reasonable. The right attorney, combined with the right approach, will increase your chances of success.