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What Is a Pain and Suffering Multiplier?

It's common practice for insurance companies and personal injury lawyers to use the multiplier method. This method is used to determine your total damages, including pain and suffering, in a personal injury case. This method compensates you for your total amount of pain and suffering damages, including severe emotional distress.

This article discusses the pain and suffering multiplier. It also provides an example of how the multiplier is used. The evidence you can submit to demonstrate pain and suffering is examined, as are criticisms of the multiplier method.  

Pain and Suffering Multiplier

The multiplier method is an equation insurance companies often employ to calculate pain and suffering damages in accident injuries from car accident cases. The process involves adding up all special damages and multiplying the result by a number between one and a half to five. The number used is the multiplier. This indicates the degree of seriousness of your pain and suffering as well as any other general damages you suffered.

If you sustain grave injuries, the multiplier will be close to five. Refer to FindLaw's Damages Estimate Worksheet to determine the seriousness of your pain and suffering damages.

How is pain and suffering determined? Several factors must be considered in determining the appropriate multiplier for your pain and suffering. These include:

  • The obviousness of the other driver's fault
  • The seriousness of your injuries, including permanent disability
  • Clear proof of pain and suffering based on verified documents
  • Period of recovery and extent to which full recovery can be realized

The amount calculated with the multiplier method is an estimate. There's no guarantee that you will receive that dollar amount. Suppose you apply a high multiplier without justification. In that case, the insurance company can deny your claim or offer you a lower amount. Therefore, you need to support your calculations with accurate facts, data, and documentation.

Sample Multiplier Calculation

Below is a sample scenario to help illustrate how the multiplier method works in practice.

Suppose you're driving on a highway and the car behind you bumps into your vehicle. As a result, you hit your face on the steering wheel and sustain a broken nose and cracked teeth. Not only do you need to undergo surgery, but now you're also suffering from chronic pain. You can no longer eat and speak without feeling sharp pain and discomfort.

Let's say your special damages are $10,000, which includes:

  • Medical expenses and medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Other treatment bills

In this scenario, your multiplier would be close to five. This is because you're suffering from broken bones and long-lasting disability. Your total estimate of damages, including pain and suffering, would be $10,000 (special damages) x 5.0 (multiplier) = $50,000.

Using the example above, suppose your damages using the multiplier method total $50,000 but the policy limit for the at-fault party is $25,000. In that case, your maximum recovery from the insurance company would be $25,000. There are other options to collect the additional damages. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you through that process.

Evidence of Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering damages must be supported by evidence. Medical records or a doctor's note may be enough in minor car accident cases. If your auto accident involves more serious physical injuries, you might need to provide witness testimony or other supporting documents. These might include:

  • A police report
  • Medical treatment bills
  • Photos of your injuries

If you fail to provide evidence of pain and suffering, the insurance company will be less inclined to compensate you.

Criticisms of the Multiplier Method

Although the multiplier method is a good starting point for determining your pain and suffering damages in a personal injury lawsuit, this method is subject to criticism. The two main reasons for this are that the multiplier method is arbitrary and can yield misleading results.

For example, two attorneys might take the same case and multiply the special damages by different numbers. This results in two different amounts of damages.

The multiplier method can also cause misleading results because it doesn't consider the vulnerability of the injured person. A broken nose on a model whose living is based in part on their appearance might sustain more emotional distress or mental anguish than a remote worker with the same injury.

Evaluating Pain and Suffering Claims

Insurance adjusters look at many factors when evaluating a pain and suffering claim. These include:

  • The severity of the injuries
  • The specific circumstances of your accident
  • The extent of the at-fault driver's negligence

Adjusters also consider the impact of your injuries on your daily life, such as:

  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Required physical therapy

Whether your injuries caused permanent disability, disfigurement, or mental health issues will also be part of the equation.

Role of Mental Health

As an accident victim, you may suffer from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you've sought treatment for these conditions as a result of your accident, you can also include these costs in your claim for damages.

Physical pain may be the most obvious example of pain and suffering. However, mental health conditions can dramatically impact your quality of life and can contribute to your pain and suffering damages, too.

Get Legal Advice From a Car Accident Lawyer

If you've sustained serious injuries in an auto accident, it can be challenging to determine the full extent of non-economic damages for your personal injury claim. You can contact a car accident attorney for help with your accident claim. 

An attorney can also help you negotiate a fair injury settlement offer on your accident insurance claim. They're familiar with the pain and suffering calculator and the types of damages you may be eligible for. Some attorneys even offer free case evaluations.

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