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How do you calculate pain and suffering damages?

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Car Accidents |

To be fully compensated for all you have lost in your car accident, you must calculate not only your tangible losses (like hospital bills and lost wages) but also your intangible losses such as pain and suffering. But how do you put a dollar value on something like pain?

Economic and noneconomic damages

Before we answer that question in more detail, we should back up and briefly discuss the basics of damages.

When you file a personal injury lawsuit, your goal is to recover compensation for everything you have lost as the result of your injuries. The legal term for these losses is “damages,” and these can include both economic damages and noneconomic damages.

Economic damages are tangible losses that you can point to on an invoice or calculate with some degree of precision. For instance, you can seek compensation for the medical bills you have already received as a result of your injuries. If you suffered a serious injury that will require ongoing treatment, you can estimate the costs you will face in the future.

“Noneconomic damages” refers to certain types of intangible losses. Perhaps the most widely known of these are pain and suffering.

These damages are, of course, subjective. There is no objective way to measure one person’s pain and suffering. Still, anyone who has suffered a serious injury knows how pain and suffering can affect nearly every aspect of their lives. If you are not compensated for these damages, you are not being compensated for everything you have lost. Therefore, you must come up with a way to put a dollar figure on something that is arguably impossible to measure in dollars and cents.

Two approaches

When attorneys, judges, insurance companies and others try to calculate pain and suffering, they often rely on two main approaches known as “pain multiplier” and “per diem.”

The per diem approach is based on estimating how many days the injured person will suffer from pain. The parties then work out a rate to pay the injured person per day of their suffering.

For instance, if a doctor estimates that your pain will persist for one year, you can decide you want $100 per day for a year to be compensated for your pain. That would be $365,000 in total.

By contrast, the pain multiplier approach is calculated based on economic damages. For example, if you have estimated that your past and future medical expenses will total $500,000, then you can demand the same amount or more to compensate you for your pain.

Most cases ultimately settle out of court rather than being decided by a judge or jury. That means that you will probably have to do a lot of negotiation to arrive at a satisfactory settlement. These approaches can help you come up with a starting point for your negotiations.