How Pain and Suffering is Calculated
December 19, 2022
If you’ve been involved in an accident, you’re probably aware that you’re entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. In fact, if you make a personal injury claim with an insurance company, they will often concede that you are entitled to these damages.
But what about your physical discomfort, emotional pain, and the sheer inconvenience of being involved in an accident? After all, receiving a check that may or may not cover all of your expenses is a long way from making you whole. Pain and suffering damages seek to compensate an injured person for the intangible costs of an accident.
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Atlanta or the surrounding areas, contact Henningsen Injury Attorneys, P.C. to discuss your case. We work on a contingency basis, and all consultations are free. We can review any settlement offer from the insurance company and fight for your rights to pain and suffering damages under the law. Call today.
How Are Damages Assessed in a Personal Injury Case
Personal injury damages are divided into three categories. Economic damages, in addition to pain and suffering, comprise what is referred to as “compensatory damages” — damages that resulted from the accident. The third category is punitive damages, but these are less common. Here is a brief explanation of each type of damages:
These are direct financial costs that arise from your injury. Economic damages include all medical bills, lost wages from being unable to work, any follow-up medical treatment, damage to property, modifications you need to make to your home, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc. Relatively speaking, financial damages are easier to calculate than non-economic damages because they come with receipts, bills, or, in the case of a future expense, an estimated cost.
Non-economic damages are also referred to as pain and suffering damages. These are the intangible costs that accompany every accident. Factors like physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of physical capacity all take a toll on the accident victim. In wrongful death cases, a personal injury lawyer may also factor the loss of companionship into the case. Insurance companies will often push back against pain and suffering damages during the negotiations phase of a personal injury claim.
The state of Georgia places no cap on pain and suffering damages, but case law has provided effective, arguable ways to calculate pain and suffering. We will explore the ways that a personal injury attorney uses to calculate pain and suffering for their clients in later sections.
In some cases, the defendant’s behavior is so egregious that the court determines they should pay additional damages in addition to the compensatory damages for the plaintiff’s bills and pain and suffering. For most personal injury claims, punitive damages are capped at $250,000 in addition to compensatory damages. An example of the type of case where punitive damages might be awarded is a car accident case where a drunk driver causes serious injuries to another person. In this case, the plaintiff might be able to recover damages for the drunk driver’s egregious negligence as well as for the compensatory damages.
Most individuals don’t have the training or experience to calculate the real costs of their accidents — let alone for pain and suffering. If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact a lawyer for a fair and full personal injury settlement.
Arriving at a Figure for Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages are usually the most contentious portion of any personal injury claim, and it requires an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve.
Using the Multiplier Method
With the multiplier method, your attorney will calculate the total amount of economic damages and apply a multiplier to them. They usually use a range from one to five for the pain and suffering calculator. The more severe the injuries are, the higher the factor. For example, if you were in a serious car accident, the resulting physical pain and emotional suffering may be substantial. If your economic damages came to $200,000 (i.e., medical bills, lost income, property damage, etc.) and the attorney applied a pain and suffering multiplier of 3, your pain and suffering damages would come to $600,000 and your total damages would be $800,000. This would be a high factor applied to a more serious injury.
The Per Diem Method
This is a less common way that personal injury attorneys use to calculate pain. This considers the future productive days that the plaintiff will lose due to the injury. This may not be calculated in days, though. In some personal injury cases, where the plaintiff had a serious bodily injury or permanent disability, it may be years before they make a full recovery if they ever recover.
In most cases, the insurance company will use its own standards to calculate pain and suffering to offer a settlement. The adjuster may acknowledge that the victim is in considerable pain and emotional trauma and may be entitled to pain and suffering compensation. That does not, however, mean that what they will offer is fair. This is why an experienced personal injury attorney will negotiate a settlement with insurance adjusters.
Why Financial and Pain and Suffering Damages Should be Calculated by an Attorney
Many people think that they can save money when it comes to their personal injury claim by negotiating directly with the insurance company. And when medical bills are piling up, and you are missing time from work, the last thing that you’re thinking of is the pain and suffering settlement. Most insurance companies will seize on this opportunity to make quick settlement offers to injured victims.
But here’s what you should know when dealing with anyone who works for an insurance company: initial settlement offers are almost always inadequate. In some cases, they might not even cover your future medical bills. They might mention your lost wages, physical pain, and emotional distress, but the compensation will fall short of what you would receive in a complete recovery.
Personal injury law firms, like Henningsen Injury Attorneys, pride ourselves on calculating the full extent of both financial and pain and suffering costs of an accident. We are confident in our numbers before we seek compensation from an insurance company. Do not accept a settlement offer from an insurance adjuster before first speaking to an attorney who is familiar with damages from pain and suffering.
What to Do If You’re Involved in an Accident
Nothing in this document should be considered legal advice, but knowing what to do after an accident can affect your claim for both financial and pain and suffering damages.
- Get to a Position of Safety – While you should never move injured parties unless they are in imminent danger, it’s important to protect yourself. Don’t stay in a hazardous situation because you believe it’s what you’re supposed to do.
If you’re in a car, for instance, you can move your vehicle if you need to. It will not affect your car accident claim.
- Call 911 – If you are unable to, ask someone to summon first responders to the scene. The dispatcher will want to know your exact location, the nature of the accident, and a description of the vehicles or people involved. In a car accident case, you will want to provide the road signs and direction of travel, while in a slip and fall, describe the location on the premises.
- Talk to Witnesses – Witnesses will leave quickly once they determine that no one is hurt. However, they can provide important insight into what occurred during the accident. If they can’t remain on the scene, ask for their contact information. If you’re in a car accident, and the witness leaves before you speak to them, try to take down their license plate number.
- Take Photos or a Video – Cellphones have provided extremely useful information in accident cases, particularly when establishing the cause of pain and suffering damages. Your accident scene will change rapidly as first responders arrive and leave items and debris all over the ground.
From a safe vantage point, use your phone to take pictures of the ground, damage to vehicles, the locations of security cameras, injuries, and anything else that would be relevant for a pain and suffering claim.
- Allow EMTs to Examine You – Your physical health takes precedence over all other considerations. Allowing the EMTs to examine you will not adversely affect your claim. You may have soft tissue injuries, internal bleeding, or some other type of physical injury that is not immediately apparent. If they recommend that you go to the hospital, allow them to transport you.
- Do not Accept an Insurance Company’s Settlement – It’s not unusual for an insurance adjuster to contact you within 24 hours of an accident. They may even show up at the hospital. They will make you an offer to cover your immediate medical expenses and maybe even a little more for lost wages and pain and suffering.
You will, however, have to sign a waiver of liability, which prohibits you from going to the insurance company for more money if you need it. Wait to speak to an injury and in Atlanta, call Henningsen Injury Attorneys.
The Accident Claim and Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
Personal injury lawyers are particularly adept at getting damages for financial costs as well as pain and suffering from the insurance company. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, slip and fall, due to medical malpractice, etc., contact an injury lawyer to discuss your case. There are no out-of-pocket costs.
Filing a Claim
If you’ve already filed a claim but didn’t accept the settlement offer, you should contact an injury lawyer before taking it. Your lawyer will review the claim offer free of charge and then inform you what you will likely get if you hire them to pursue your damages.
Otherwise, it’s often in your best interest to contact an attorney before filing a personal injury claim. Your attorney can file the claim on your behalf once they have all of your documentation. This places you at an advantage when it comes to negotiating your pain and suffering damages.
Your attorney will prepare a demand letter once they have determined the full amount of your damages and present it to the insurance company. This will include all financial expenses and pain and suffering. The insurance company has the ability to pay the demand or make a counteroffer. If the counteroffer is reasonably close, the case may settle quickly. Oftentimes, however, the case must go to litigation.
Filing a Law Suit
Even after the lawsuit is filed, the case will probably settle out of court. In Georgia, the plaintiff has two years from the date of the accident or death to file a lawsuit.
Both sides must disclose the discovery evidence they intend to use to the other side. This includes physical evidence, medical records, witness statements, etc. The evidence may be significant, so this phase may require a lengthy period of time.
All plaintiff and defense witnesses will be deposed by opposing counsel. In these recorded interviews, the attorneys for both sides are present.
Case Development and Expert Witnesses
Your attorney will contact expert witnesses to examine the evidence further and help them prepare their case. This is particularly important when it comes to the pain and suffering damages since this will be the most heavily contested damages.
Your attorney will enter negotiations with the insurance company’s attorneys. In most cases, the insurance company will settle out of court to avoid a protracted legal battle. Any settlement offer will include full financial reimbursement and compensation for your pain and suffering damages.
If the case can’t be settled, it will go to trial. While this is less common, it does happen. That’s why you want to make sure that you have the right attorney in your corner. In Atlanta, that starts with a call to Henningsen Injury Attorneys. Call today.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pain and Suffering Damages
At Henningsen Injury Attorneys, P.C., we’ve successfully represented hundreds of clients in their pursuit of pain and suffering damages. If you’ve been injured in an accident, you are not only entitled to all of your out-of-pocket expensesbut also compensation for pain and suffering. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions by our clients. If you would like to talk to us about your injuries, we offer free consultations. You can find out specific information about your case for free.
What is included in pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering is a catchall term that refers to damages caused by an accident that don’t have a monetary cost. This is best demonstrated with an example. In car accidents, it’s not difficult to calculate the financial costs of injuries and damage to the vehicle. However, what about the cost of the bodily pain and emotional trauma that the at-fault driver has caused? Pain and suffering damages can help you in the aftermath of a bad accident.
Can pain and suffering damages exceed economic damages?
Yes. For serious accidents, personal injury lawyers are more likely to use a higher pain and suffering calculator. That means that in most cases, there will be a higher amount for pain and suffering damages than for financial costs.
Why is it better to use an injury lawyer when pursuing pain and suffering damages?
Most accident victims have no idea what they’re entitled to when it comes to pain and suffering. While they may expect to be reimbursed somehow, they are unaware of the payment calculator or the per diem method. Additionally, calculating pain damages depends heavily on understanding your injuries. An injury attorney can recommend specialists for your medical treatment that can not only diagnose your condition but also make it understandable when their medical advice is presented as evidence.
How can I afford a personal injury lawyer?
Georgia trial attorneys who handle personal injury cases work on a contingency basis. This means that they only collect their fees at the end of their case. If the defendant in the personal injury lawsuit settles, the attorney is paid from the proceeds of the settlement. On the other hand, if the case goes to court, they are only paid if they win the case.
In most instances, the attorney justifies their fees by increasing the size of the settlement. This way, the plaintiff gets more money for their expenses and pain and suffering even after the attorney recovers their fees. The alternative of accepting settlement without representation means that the insurance company will be calculating pain and suffering. This probably won’t work out as well for you.
Atlanta, GA Personal Injury Attorneys
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, slip and fall, or any other type of mishap, you are entitled to compensation for all of your costs, including pain and suffering. Contact the Atlanta injury attorneys at Henningsen Injury Attorneys. We offer free consultations and contingency representation for our injury clients. Call today to get started.