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How Pain and Suffering is Calculated in Car Accident Settlements

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Car accident settlement pain and suffering amounts are calculated by multiplying the sum of all economic damages, like medical bills, by a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of the injuries. Pain and suffering can also be quantified with a daily amount agreed upon by the insurance company.

While these methods for calculating a car accident settlement for pain and suffering might seem straightforward enough, the majority of accident victims aren’t familiar with terms like “economic damages” or even the true definition of pain and suffering. Without pre-existing knowledge of these terms, many car accident victims ultimately receive far smaller settlements than they deserve.

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident that was limited or no fault of your own, do not let the insurance company deny you your right to fair compensation. Pain and suffering are just as debilitating as a physical injury and you deserve to be compensated. Learn what to expect from a car accident settlement for pain and suffering and how a trusted attorney can help.

What is Pain and Suffering Exactly?

Pain and suffering is an all-encompassing term that refers to the physical and emotional pain a car accident victim experiences due to a collision and bodily injury. After a crash, pain and suffering can take multiple forms like anxiety, depression, chronic headaches, or back pain. In most cases, any form of emotional distress and physical pain counts as pain and suffering.

In a car accident case, pain and suffering are considered non-economic damage. Non-economic damages, also referred to as general damages, are non-monetary losses that aren’t tied to a specific dollar amount. In comparison, economic damages are the types of costs most victims incur upfront, such as medical bills, physical therapy costs, and lost wages, that have a specific price tag.

Pain and suffering from a car accident can and should be included in an accident settlement.

What is the Average Settlement for Pain and Suffering in Car Accidents?

A car accident settlement for pain and suffering may average from a few thousand dollars to upwards of $300,000, depending on the unique factors of each case. The average settlement for pain and suffering in car accidents varies depending on the accident severity. The more severe the car accident, the higher the amount of pain and suffering compensation may be.

The pain and suffering amount for a victim who sustained a permanent spinal injury from a car accident will likely be greater than the compensation for a victim who received a minor arm fracture. It can be assumed that the victim with a life-long injury has physically and mentally suffered more than the victim with a temporary wound.

It’s not just the injury severity that will determine the average settlement amount for pain and suffering in car accidents. The type of car accident may also impact the compensation amount. Traumatic accidents, such as a head-on collision, may cause the victim to suffer flashbacks or anxiety when entering a vehicle, leading to continued mental anguish and higher compensation.

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Pain and Suffering Settlement Examples

If you are wondering how much compensation you get for pain and suffering, it’s helpful to compare your current situation to a few examples. While each personal injury case is vastly different depending on the individual details of the accident, and no amount is guaranteed, weighing your situation against similar scenarios can help you understand what compensation you deserve.

Example #1: Complete Arm Fracture from a Crash

Hypothetical accident victim Linda was involved in a roll-over collision that completely shattered the bones in her left arm. She required surgery to realign the broken bones and stabilize the pieces. Her left arm was immobilized in a cast for six weeks, and doctors predicted she would regain full strength in approximately two years.

As a result of her injury, Linda suffered constant pain on her left side, causing her insomnia and depression. She lost the ability to drive while healing and could not play with or pick up her one-year-old grandchild. Linda included physical pain, emotional pain, and loss of enjoyment of life in her accident claim and received $10,000 for her pain and suffering.

Example #2: Severe Knee Injury from a Wreck

Hypothetical accident victim John suffered a severe knee injury from a car accident that was not his fault. John tore multiple ligaments in his knee, rendering him unable to stand or walk for several months. John’s job required him to stand for hours at a time, so he could not return to work for nearly a year.

When John contacted a car accident attorney for a free consultation, he learned that he could sue the at-fault driver for economic damages, like his lost wages, and his pain and suffering. He claimed his temporary disability and loss of consortium with his wife, who was a runner, in his accident claim and received $25,000 for his pain and suffering.

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Pain and Suffering Calculation Methods

Pain and suffering is a non-economic damage, which means it will not have a pre-calculated dollar amount. To come to a reasonable calculation for pain and suffering, attorneys and insurance companies both employ one of two pain and suffering formulas.

The two formulas to calculate pain and suffering after a car accident include:

  1. Per diem, or daily rate, method
  2. Multiplier method

Take a look at how both methods are utilized in a personal injury claim.

The Per Diem (Daily Rate) Method

One way to calculate the total amount of pain and suffering to include in a personal injury claim is via the per diem method. Per diem is Latin for “daily rate.” Using this formula, an amount of money is allocated to each day, week, or month a victim suffers from the impacts of a car accident. A reasonable daily calculation can be tricky, which is why the help of an attorney is so beneficial.

An attorney can calculate a daily rate for pain and suffering by determining a victim’s daily income if they weren’t injured. If a victim cannot work due to emotional and physical pain, the amount they’re losing per day can put a dollar value on their suffering.

Considera car accident victim who suffered a broken bone and had to wear a cast for six weeks, attend physical therapy for four weeks, and take pain medication for another three weeks. The total time of their pain and suffering is approximately 13 weeks. If the victim made $150 per day, an attorney would multiply that monetary amount by the time of suffering.

In action, the per diem formula looks like this:

  • [7 days in one week] x [13 weeks of pain and suffering] = 91 days of pain and suffering
  • [91 days of pain and suffering] x [$150 per day] = $13,650 of pain and suffering damages

The Multiplier Method

The multiplier method is a much different method of pain and suffering calculation than the per diem method. Rather than focusing on the duration of pain and suffering, the multiplier is based on the victim’s economic damages after an accident. The sum of all economic damages is multiplied by a number from 1.5 to 5, depending on the accident’s severity.

To calculate a pain and suffering total using the multiplier method, you must calculate all economic damages. Typically, these costs include medical expenses, lost wages, travel fees from doctor appointments, out-of-pocket costs for over-the-counter medication, and any other expenses incurred. Once you have a tentative total for all damages, work with an attorney to determine a multiplier.

The multiplier given to your pain and suffering will depend on the severity of your accident injuries. A mild injury with minimal recovery time may only receive a multiplier of 1.5 or 2. In comparison, a severe injury with life-long repercussions may receive a multiplier of 5. An attorney will help decide what a reasonable multiplier is for your case.

In action, the multiplier method looks like this:

  • [$50,000 of medical expenses] + [ $20,000 of lost wages] + [$15,000 of other costs] =  $85,000 of total damages
  • [$85,000 of total damages] x [3 multiplier] = $255,000 of pain and suffering damages

If you’d like to get an estimate on what your case could be worth, try one of our settlement calculators.

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How Do Insurance Companies Value Pain and Suffering?

Insurance companies often try to pay accident victims the least amount of compensation possible. They are a business and they would rather not give away money when they can avoid it. To keep compensation estimates low, companies often do not place a high value on pain and suffering.

When an insurance adjuster provides you and your attorney with your first settlement offer, chances are it will be significantly lower than the amount you calculated. This is where settlement negotiations will begin. During a settlement negotiation, you and your attorney can provide as much evidence as possible to explain why your pain and suffering are valued so high.

Physician’s testimony or medical imaging can help explain why a soft tissue injury or a bone fracture has been so debilitating. Documented proof of past and future medical bills can also help quantify the amount of pain and suffering you’ve endured. Though insurance companies may not initially value pain and suffering as high as an attorney, settlement negotiations can help.

Documenting Pain and Suffering: What Type of Evidence Will the Insurance Company Review?

It can be challenging to capture the amount of physical pain and emotional distress a victim suffers on paper. While a medical receipt or statement from your doctor may not perfectly capture how you’re feeling, documentation such as this can help the insurance company provide accurate compensation for your pain and suffering claim.

The documentation you and your attorney must gather to prove and pain and suffering include:

  • Prescription records
  • Medical records and receipts
  • Diagnostic imaging and photographs
  • Over-the-counter and prescription medication receipts
  • Documentation of lost wages from your employer
  • Diary or journal entries that describe your accident, injuries, or recovery process

An attorney can focus on gathering these records, so you focus your energy on healing.

How an Attorney Can Help Prove Pain and Suffering

When an accident victim lacks the expert guidance of a lawyer, they risk receiving a dramatically reduced settlement offer. They may fail to enter settlement negotiations without an attorney and instead agree to lesser compensation. In comparison, having a trusted team of personal injury attorneys on your side means you can push back on unfair compensation offers.

Personal injury lawyers can skillfully tackle settlement negotiations with the insurance company and have extensive experience speaking with insurance adjusters. They understand what type of documentation an insurance adjuster needs to make a fair decision. They will do the hard work of tracking down expenses and quantifying your injuries.

If the insurance company does not offer fair compensation, an attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury attorney can help prove your accident was the result of negligence on behalf of the at-fault driver. They will ensure timely action is taken with the statute of limitations for your case to grant you fair compensation.

Receive the Compensation You Deserve

Pain and suffering can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. If you’ve recently been injured in a car accident, do not hesitate to seek compensation for the stress and pain you’ve endured. At Miley Legal Group, we offer free consultations with one of our trusted personal injury attorneys. Contact us today to get started with your pain and suffering claim or try one of our settlement calculators to get an estimate on your claim.

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Written by
Tim Miley
Tim Miley is the founder of The Miley Legal Group. After earning his undergraduate degree in finance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, Tim attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Tim is admitted to practice in all courts in West Virginia and is currently a member of the American Association for Justice, the West Virginia American Association for Justice, the West Virginia Bar Association and the Harrison County Bar Association.
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The Miley Legal Group editorial department has a rigorous fact-checking process, starting with our strict sourcing guidelines.

Our writers only gather information from credible sources. This includes peer-reviewed medical journals, reputable media outlets, government reports, court records, and interviews with qualified experts.