Someone else caused a car accident that left you injured. Along with hospital bills and vehicle repair costs, you might be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you've experienced as a result of the crash.
However, the amount you can recover will vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction where your accident happened and the facts of the case. Read on to learn more about how pain and suffering damages work in car accident cases.
Different Kinds of Damages
In many jurisdictions, the damages that arise from an injury suit are separated into two categories: special damages and general damages. Special damages are associated with specific economic harm. This could mean the loss of wages due to missed work, damage to your vehicle or other property, and medical expenses. General damages, on the other hand, cover the below types of "noneconomic damages:"
- Pain and suffering
- Physical disfigurement or impairment
- Potentially shortened lifespan
- Mental anguish
- Loss of companionship and consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
Calculating Car Accident Pain and Suffering Damages
Evaluating property damage or hospital bills is quite simple. A victim can typically prove these losses by showing a quote from an auto repair shop or the receipts for medical treatment. Calculating the pain and suffering the car accident caused, by comparison, is more difficult. How does an injured person who might be dealing with the physical pain and emotional trauma of a crash prove the worth of their suffering?
Pain and suffering can be highly subjective. Two people may describe or experience virtually identical injuries very differently. This makes the establishment of standards or guidelines for car accident pain and suffering damages difficult or impossible to produce.
In practice, there are a number of factors courts consider in determining the amount of damages to be paid for pain and suffering:
- Severity of the injury
- Location and nature of any scarring or disfigurement
- Recovery time needed
- Potential for ongoing consequences
- Amount claimed in special damages
- Socio-economic or political factors
- Personality and charisma of the injured party
- Personality and charisma of the attorney
- State damages caps
The Multiplier Method
Some attorneys use the "multiplier method" to calculate pain and suffering damages. This method involves the application of a multiplier to the total special damages. The theory behind this calculation is that injuries that result in more calculable damages, such as hospital bills, are typically more serious than those that result in fewer calculable damages.
While that may be true in most car accident cases, there are two major criticisms of this method.
- Arbitrary multipliers - Different attorneys use different multipliers in using this method. One attorney might double the special damages, while another attorney would quadruple them. Neither answer is necessarily wrong, but the wide variation between these calculations can lead to inconsistent results.
- Potentially misleading results - A model who is disfigured in a car accident, for example, could have lower hospital bills than a computer engineer who broke bones. Their disfigurement, however, might cause more emotional and psychological distress, since models largely rely on their physical appearance to earn a living.
The multiplier method is imperfect. Still, it gives a starting point when determining the level of damages a victim deserves for their pain and suffering through their car accident claim.
Per Diem Method
In some cases, it might work best to use the per diem method to calculate damages for pain and suffering. "Per diem" stands for per day.
Basically, this method of determining a set amount in damages quantifies how much compensation an injury victim should receive on a daily basis. How long has the victim suffered due to the injury, and how long will it continue? How much pain do they need to live with?
Lawyers usually look at the injured party's regular income/salary to identify a reasonable amount of daily compensation. The idea here is that living with the pain is at the very least comparable to a day's work. After all, if given the chance an injury victim would gladly exchange being healthy and working for whatever compensation they receive for their injury.
Here's an example: In 2021, there are 261 traditional working days. (Of course this will vary depending on a person's schedule and unique situation.) Let's say the accident victim makes $60,000 per year. The daily income value in this case would be about $230.
If the injury in question set back the victim for 100 days, they'd multiply that number by $230. The settlement in this case using this per diem method would result in a $23,000 payout. This method of calculation makes most sense for temporary injuries rather than long-term due to how specifically the parties quantify the number of days the injury lasts.
Questions About Car Accident Pain and Suffering Damages? Ask an Attorney
The lack of an objective standard for setting car accident pain and suffering damages makes it important to have qualified legal representation. Attorneys will have a sense of the damages you deserve.
If you were in a car accident, speak with an experienced car accident lawyer who knows the laws and understands the minds of insurers and local juries. This insider, expert knowledge will be invaluable information when making your claim.