What does pain and suffering mean in a personal injury settlement?

Pain and suffering compensation is intended to reimburse you for both the physical pain and the emotional trauma you experienced as the result of another party’s negligence. Your compensation will depend upon a number of factors, including the severity of your injuries and whether or not you’ve been left with any permanent disabilities as the result of the incident.

About Personal Injury Settlements

In a personal injury settlement, there are two types of damages: economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are damages that have an easily assigned dollar value, such as the cost of the medical care you needed as the result of your injuries and the value of your lost wages. Noneconomic damages are damages that have an abstract and subjective nature. This includes pain and suffering damages as well as punitive damages and applicable compensation for loss of consortium.

Using the Multiplier Method

The multiplier method is the most common way to evaluate pain and suffering for a personal injury settlement. This method tallies up your documented medical expenses and multiplies the total by a number between 1 and 5. Lower numbers are used for less serious injuries where the victim is expected to make a full recovery, while higher numbers indicate serious injuries resulting in some level of permanent disability.

One factor to consider with the multiplier method is that some medical expenses are looked upon as more valid than others. If you briefly saw a physician for your neck and shoulder pain, but continued treatment with a chiropractor instead of following the physician’s recommendations, your expenses might be called into question by the other party’s insurance company. Seeking treatment for a longer than average period of time without having any documented complications in the healing process may also cause your expenses to be questioned.

Using the Per Diem Method

Another method that can be used to evaluate pain and suffering compensation is the per diem method. This method assigns a daily value to pain and suffering, then multiplies the daily value by the number of days in which the victim took to fully recover. In most cases, the per diem value is based on your wages earned at work. Using your daily wages as the per diem value assumes that the effort of coping with your injuries is roughly equivalent to going to work each day.

Choosing Which Method to Use

There is no hard and fast rule used to determine how pain and suffering compensation must be calculated. This means that pain and suffering compensation is often one of the most highly debated parts of a personal injury settlement.

Your hourly earnings may affect which method results in a more favorable settlement, especially if your injuries are very serious and your earnings are relatively modest. For example, a fast food worker who suffered internal bleeding and a severely broken leg that required surgery and a hospital stay would likely receive a higher level of pain and suffering compensation using the multiplier method.

Generally speaking, the per diem method is best suited for use in cases where the injury is one with a relatively short recovery period. If you’re left permanently disabled, the calculation becomes unreasonable given the fact that your medical expenses and lost wages may be enough to exceed the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance policy.

Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to present as much evidence as possible to support your claim. Many attorneys recommend keeping a journal of your symptoms and how they’ve affected your daily activities, so you can offer specific examples of the pain and suffering you’ve experienced if you are ever called to testify. Copies of your medical records and expert testimony from healthcare providers experienced in dealing with your particular condition may also be important in establishing the the value of pain and suffering in your claim.

The Value of Legal Representation

The best way to maximize your available compensation in a personal injury settlement is to retain the services of an experienced attorney. Your attorney can line up the necessary evidence to document your medical expenses and lost wages, while negotiating on your behalf to ensure that you receive the highest possible compensation for your pain and suffering. Call Rechtman & Spevak today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.