If you’ve sustained injuries in a car accident, you may be entitled to different types of compensation. Besides covering your medical bills and lost wages, the at-fault party can take care of non-economic damages (also called pain and suffering).
Calculating the amount of pain and suffering is complicated since there isn’t any tangible evidence to fall back on. That’s why courts and insurance companies have to come up with creative methods to determine a fair amount.
Let’s take a closer look at non-economic damages and common calculation methods.
Types of Non-Economic Damages
Physical pain and suffering isn’t the only non-economic damage you can sustain after getting hurt in a car accident. You can also seek compensation for such damages as:
- Emotional anguish – a high degree of emotional pain, distress, anxiety, and embarrassment.
- Loss of consortium – decreased quality of family relationship (e.g., affection or sexual relations) due to sustained injuries.
- Loss of enjoyment of life – inability to participate in activities that you enjoyed before the accident (for example, due to a disability).
- Physical impairment – loss of limb or another impairment that decreases your quality of life substantially.
- Scarring or disfigurement – these consequences may not keep you from regular activities but can have a serious impact on your mental health and enjoyment of life.
The goal of recovering non-economic damages is to bring your life as close to what it was before the car accident as possible.
How to Prove Pain and Suffering
While it’s often easy to prove economic damages by providing tangible evidence (medical bills, wage reports, doctor’s reports, property damage evaluations), proving pain and suffering is more complicated.
The type of evidence that can demonstrate non-economic damages includes:
- Photos and videos of your injuries (if you didn’t take any photos on the day of the accident, don’t worry. Pictures of healing injuries can work too).
- Personal journals that describe your anguish and pain after the accident.
- Testimony of your family members (especially for the loss of consortium).
- Photos and videos of your life before the accident (for example, you used to love playing soccer, but the sustained injury makes it impossible to continue).
- Expert witness testimonies that describe the mental and physical consequences of your injuries.
The goal of the presented evidence is to convince the judge or the insurance company that you are entitled to non-economic damage recovery. Once they establish that you sustained non-economic damages, they can decide on a certain amount.
How to Calculate Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident
There are two main methods for determining pain and suffering in a car accident. One applies a multiplier (usually between 1.5 and 5) to your economic losses. Another sets a certain amount for each day you have to live with pain and suffering.
The multiplier method is the most common way to calculate pain and suffering. The insurance company or the judge adds up all evidence-backed economic damages and applies a certain multiplier to the final amount.
Factors that may affect the size of the multiplier include:
- The extent of your injuries
- Your prospects of recovery
- Your Credibility
- The consistency of your testimony
- Your partial fault in the accident (if any)
For example, you sustained injuries in a car accident that was entirely another person’s fault. Your economic damages add up to $10,000. The insurance company decides that the fair multiplier is 2. The final amount you can recover is 10,000 + 2 x 10,000 = $30,000.
Insurance companies tend to minimize multipliers in order to avoid large settlements. If you and your attorney believe that the amount should be higher, you can discuss the size of the multiplier during negotiations.
Method #2: Per Diem
Per diem (“per day” in Latin) method involves setting a daily rate for each day you have to live with the non-economic consequences of your injuries.
In most cases, insurance companies compare daily suffering to the effort of going to work. This allows them to make the daily rate equal to your daily wages.
For example, you break a leg in a car accident and have to wear a cast for five weeks (35 days). Your annual salary is $50,000. If you divide it by 250 (the number of working days per year), you get $200. The amount of non-economic damages is 200 x 35 = $7,000.
The per diem method is somewhat less popular because it’s hard to set a fair daily rate and justify it (especially if you don’t work at the time of the accident). It’s also less useful for car accidents that lead to permanent disabilities.
The insurance company or a jury of strangers decides how to calculate pain and suffering in your car accident case. It’s up to you to present sufficient evidence that backs your economic damages and proves your right to non-economic compensation. Meagher Injury Lawyers can help prove these damages, advocate on your behalf, and guide you through the legal process. Our firm never takes a fee unless we win your case. You will never have to write us a check or give us your credit card information. We will never send you a bill. Contact us today to schedule a free legal consultation.