How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?

Pain and suffering damages are included in the category of non-economic damages. Pain and suffering damages represent various losses associated with physical injuries caused by accidents and other incidents. 

California personal injury laws allow an injured party to seek compensation for these damages when they file a claim against the party who harmed them. A monetary award does not erase the pain or suffering. However, it is as close to making the injured party “whole” as the legal system can accomplish after a personal injury. 

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages in a California Personal Injury Case?

Pain and suffering cover several types of losses and harm. An injured person can demand compensation for the physical pain and discomfort they experience because of personal injuries. Common injuries sustained in accidents include:

In addition to the physical discomfort, an injured victim can recover compensation for their emotional distress and mental anguish. 

Emotional and mental trauma can cause a person to suffer from one or more mental or emotional disorders. For example, a person might experience PTSD, depression, and anxiety after an accident or personal injury.

Pain and suffering damages also include a person’s loss of enjoyment of life, decreased quality of life, scarring, disability, impairment, and disfigurement. 

What Types of Personal Injury Cases Include Pain and Suffering Damages?

Any injury caused by another party can result in special damages (economic damages) and pain and suffering damages (non-economic damages). Pain and suffering damages are sometimes referred to as general damages as well.

Examples of personal injury cases that could result in compensation for pain and suffering include, but are not limited to:

Any situation that results in an injury to another person could give rise to a personal injury claim. Even though a party unintentionally hurts another person, the at-fault party can be liable for damages. Calculating and proving pain and suffering damages can be challenging, especially if you do not hire an experienced Vista injury lawyer. 

Methods for Calculating Pain and Suffering for a Personal Injury Claim 

Putting a price on someone’s pain would be easier if the state enacted standard guidelines or a formula for calculating non-economic damages. Instead, juries, judges, lawyers, and insurance companies use different methods for determining how much a claim is worth.

Two common methods of calculating pain and suffering are the per diem method and the multiplier method. 

Per Diem Method

Per diem is a daily allowance for a specific expense or loss. For example, an employer may pay a per diem of $25 to cover food expenses when an employee is out of town. In other words, the employee receives $25 to help pay for their meals.

In a personal injury claim, the per diem compensates the injured person for their non-economic damages. 

For each day between the date of injury and the date when the person reaches maximum medical improvement, they receive a specific amount for pain and suffering. Maximum medical improvement is when doctors believe a person’s condition is not likely to improve, even with continued medical treatment. 

The amount of the per diem is decided by a jury if the case goes to trial. Otherwise, the insurance company and your lawyer negotiate the per diem amount. Factors that can impact the amount of per diem include:

  • The person’s appearance before and after the injury
  • The type and severity of the injury
  • The extent of the permanent impairment or disability
  • The impact the injury has on the person’s daily life, career, and relationships
  • The level of inconvenience caused by the injury
  • The necessity for ongoing medical treatment and the type of treatment 
  • The need for continued mental health and psychological care

Other factors might be relevant depending on the specific facts of the case. The dollar amount chosen is subjective and based on another person’s assumption of how an injury might affect someone. 

Multiplier Method

The multiplier method is the most common calculator for pain and suffering damages used by insurance companies, lawyers, and courts. A number between 1.5 and five is chosen as a multiplier based on factors like those discussed for a per diem. The total of the person’s economic damages multiplied by the multiplier equals the value of non-economic damages. 

Generally, the multiplier increases as the severity of the injury increases. 

For example, a case of whiplash that heals in a few weeks and causes little disruption to a person’s life might have a 1.5 multiplier. However, a spinal cord injury that causes paralysis has a multiplier of four or five. 

How Can I Prove Pain and Suffering Damages?

Because the pain and suffering someone experiences are unique to that person, it can be challenging to prove the level of suffering you experience. The lack of physical evidence is another problem. Unlike economic damages, you do not have a bill or invoice to prove the value of non-economic damages. 

Therefore, we use other evidence to prove the level of suffering an injured person experiences because of an accident. Evidence that could be used to prove how much you suffered because of an accident and injury includes:

  • Photographs and videos of your injuries
  • Medical records that explain your injuries
  • Professional notes and statements from your physicians, therapists, and counselors
  • Opinions of expert witnesses 
  • Statements from friends and family members
  • Personal documentation from a journal or notebook

Your testimony can be very powerful evidence of the suffering you experienced because of another party’s negligent act. Keeping a pain and suffering journal helps you remember the details of your recovery. Information to note in a journal includes activities you missed because of your injuries, how your injuries impacted relationships, your daily pain levels, and your mental and emotional state.

Vivid details of your recovery help insurance adjusters and jurors “feel” how much you suffered. You want to illustrate how accident injuries disrupted your activities and caused extreme physical and emotional pain. 

Call Us for a Free Consultation With a Vista Personal Injury Lawyer

Online pain and suffering calculators for personal injury claims are not accurate. In addition, the one-size-fits-all calculators used by insurance companies are unfair. 

Contact Petrov Law Firm to discuss your personal injury case with an experienced personal injury attorney in Vista, CA. Let us help you recover fair compensation for your pain and suffering damages. Call us today at (760) 813-3313 to schedule a free initial consultation.