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What Is a 'Pain and Suffering Multiplier'?

If you've been suffering from permanent disability and severe emotional distress as a result of a car accident, how do you pin down numbers to get compensated? Determining the amount of pain and suffering damages is difficult, especially because they can vary depending on the individual. Insurance companies and attorneys commonly use the "multiplier method" to determine the total amount of damages, including pain and suffering. Read on to find out how pain and suffering damages are calculated using the multiplier method.

Pain and Suffering Multiplier

The multiplier method is an equation frequently used by insurance companies and is a common way to calculate pain and suffering damages. You add up all special damages and multiply the result by a number between 1.5 to 5. The number by which you multiply is called the "multiplier," which indicates the degree of seriousness of your pain and suffering and any other general damages you suffered.

For example, if you sustained very grave injuries, the multiplier should be close to 5. Use FindLaw's Damages Estimate Worksheet to determine the seriousness of your pain and suffering damages. Here are some factors to consider in determining the appropriate multiplier for your pain and suffering:

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

Keep in mind that the amount calculated with the multiplier method is an estimate - there's no guarantee that you will receive that amount. If you apply a high multiplier without justification, the insurance company can deny your claim. Accordingly, make sure your calculations are supported by accurate facts and documentation.

Sample Multiplier Calculation

Here's a sample scenario to help illustrate how the multiplier method works in practice. While you were driving on a highway, a car behind you carelessly bumped into your vehicle. As a result, you hit your face on the steering wheel and sustained a broken nose and teeth. Not only do you need to undergo a surgery, you are now suffering from chronic pain. You can no longer eat and speak without feeling sharp pain and discomfort.

Your special damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and other treatment bills, are $10,000. Your multiplier would most likely be close to 5 because you are suffering from broken bones and long-lasting disability. Thus, your total estimate of damages, including pain and suffering, would be: $10,000 (special damages) x 5.0 (multiplier) = $50,000.

Evidence of Pain and Suffering

Before you start calculating your damages, it's important to remember that pain and suffering damages must be supported by evidence. In minor cases, medical records or a doctor's note may be sufficient. However, if it involves more serious injuries, you might need to provide witness testimonies, if available, and other supporting documents such as a police report, medical treatment bills, and photos of your injuries. If you have no evidence of pain and suffering, the insurance company will be hesitant to award you for them.

Criticisms of the Multiplier Method

Although, the multiplier method is a good starting point to apply your pain and suffering damages, it has been widely criticized for two main reasons: for being arbitrary and for yielding potentially misleading results. Two attorneys may take the same case and multiply the special damages by different numbers, resulting in two substantially different amounts of damages. The multiplier method can also potentially cause misleading results because it doesn't consider the vulnerability of the injured person. For example, a movie star with a broken nose (whose living is based in part on their appearance) would probably sustain more emotional distress than would a soldier or athlete with the same injury.

Learn More About Pain and Suffering Multipliers from a Lawyer

Even though the multiplier method seems simple to use, there could be many other additional factors that may not apply to other people but apply to your case. If you would like to learn more about the multiplier method or need help calculating your damages, contact a local car accident attorney today.

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