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How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated in My Car Accident Case?

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When a negligent driver causes a car accident and injures another driver, the injured driver will likely pursue legal action to recover his or her losses. Some losses are easy to calculate, such as economic losses like medical bills and lost income from missed time from work while recovering. Other losses, particularly intangible ones like physical pain and emotional suffering, are far more difficult to determine.

However, noneconomic damages like pain and suffering may wind up being the most substantial damages a car accident victim recovers. Every driver who experiences an accident should have some idea of how to calculate pain and suffering so they know what to expect when it comes to recovering noneconomic damages.

What Is Pain and Suffering?

The justice system acknowledges that the experience of a traumatic event or serious injury is often worse for victims than the resulting economic losses. Therefore, plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits typically receive compensation for their pain and suffering in proportion to their other damages.

Pain and suffering damages compensate physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish resulting from a personal injury. Car accidents happen every day in the U.S. and some are much worse than others, but any car accident can potentially traumatize a driver and make it very difficult for him or her to drive without anxiety in the future.

Some car accident victims suffer severe physical injuries that require extensive recovery time and may even result in permanent disabilities. In these situations, the pain and suffering compensation plaintiffs receive reflects the severity of their disabilities. For example, a plaintiff may only incur $20,000 in medical expenses for a broken back, but the injury results in the permanent inability to walk. This is a dramatic shift in the quality of life and would likely result in significantly more pain and suffering compensation. Different courts use different systems to calculate pain and suffering damages.

The Multiplier Formula

The most commonly used formula for calculating pain and suffering damages is the multiplier formula. The jury or insurance carrier adds up the economic damages in the case and multiplies the total by a certain amount, typically between two and five, to reflect the severity of the incident. For example, in an injury case resulting in moderate injuries, the jury may multiply the plaintiff’s economic damages and medical expenses by two. In a case involving a drunk driver who hit another driver at high speed and caused a permanent disability, the jury may multiply the economic damages by five to reflect the severity of the defendant’s actions.

There is no hard and fast rule for the multiplier method, but it is vital for any plaintiff to assess the full scope of his or her damages before accepting any settlement offer or filing a lawsuit. This way the victim ensures he or she receives appropriate compensation for his or her injuries.

Per Diem Pain and Suffering

Other courts and some insurers use a daily rate method or per diem method for calculating pain and suffering damages. Under this system, the victim receives a set amount of compensation every day he or she spends in recovery until the point he or she reaches maximum medical recovery. Maximum medical recovery refers to the point at which an individual cannot heal any further or has fully recovered from his or her injuries.

Under a per diem system, the plaintiff must offer evidence or a sound argument as to why he or she deserves a specified amount of daily compensation. This may include average daily earnings from work and the level of pain the victim experiences on a daily basis following an injury.

Pain and suffering compensation helps car accident victims recover from their physical pain and emotional suffering from traumatic and injurious accidents. If you or a loved one recently experienced a serious car accident and are unsure about what to expect in terms of compensation in California, meet with a personal injury attorney in Orange County as soon as possible to discuss your options for legal recourse and to gain a better understanding of the type of compensation you should expect if you succeed with your lawsuit or insurance claim.