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How Are Pain and Suffering Costs Determined?

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Posted on April 17, 2023

No one expects a painful injury, yet millions of injuries happen every day in car accidents, falls, work injuries, sports injuries, and due to the numerous hazards we face in our daily lives. When a person sustains a serious injury, the impacts have a ripple effect through many aspects of their life. While they’re undergoing painful medical procedures and enduring lengthy recovery periods away from work, their bills keep coming in, along with mounting medical costs. When another party was at fault for the accident, that person or entity is liable for damages, including not only easily calculated medical expenses and lost income but also for the intangible but equally damaging pain and suffering they endure.

Many personal injury settlements and court awards include compensation for pain and suffering, but how do insurance companies, attorneys, and courts determine a monetary amount for intangible pain and suffering?

Understanding Non-Economic Damages in California

While non-economic damages like pain and suffering might be less easily quantifiable, they are often more damaging than the economic damages associated with an injury; therefore, courts consider these as valid damages deserving of compensation. Though monetary compensation can’t erase an injury or directly relieve suffering, it can open access to the best medical care and relieve financial worries during recovery. Depending on the circumstances of the injury, non-economic damages could include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • Grief and anguish
  • Loss of consortium (loss of ability to enjoy a full relationship with a romantic partner or the ability to support and nurture children)
  • Loss of life quality
  • Loss of pleasure in life
  • Disfigurement

The court may consider any of the above damages depending on how the accident occurred, the seriousness of the injury, and the impact on the individual’s life.

Calculating Pain and Suffering

Courts in California and elsewhere compensate injury victims for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages in the only way they can under tort law—through monetary awards. While courts have discretion in determining an amount for pain and suffering they often use one of two basic methods to find a rough figure:

  • Per Diem Method: When courts use the per diem method, they calculate a monetary amount per day for every day the victim is presumed to have suffered pain related to the injury and then multiplied by the number of days going forward that the victim is likely to experience pain and suffering based on the severity of the injury.
  • The Multiplier Method: this method works through a formula based on the amount of a victim’s medical bills with the understanding that the higher the medical costs the more likely that the injury involves a great deal of pain. This method takes the total amount of medical expenses and multiplies it by a predetermined number between 1.5 and 5 depending on the nature and seriousness of the injury and the victim’s prognosis 

Compensation for pain and suffering also helps many victims of preventable accidents to achieve a sense of justice.

What Evidence is Used to Determine Compensation for Pain and Suffering?

The vast majority of personal injury claims settle out of court through negotiations with the insurance company of the at-fault party. Whether through negotiations or in courtroom litigation the evidence used to determine an amount for pain and suffering includes:

  • The injury victim’s medical records, including expenses, treatment recommendations, and overall prognosis
  • Documentation of income and the number of work days lost
  • Photographs of the victim’s injuries
  • Pain journals
  • Family and witness testimony

Compensation for pain and suffering and other forms of non-economic damages help injury victims to gain ample compensation for their injury beyond simply recovering their financial damages. For more information, you can get in contact with one of our San Diego personal injury attorneys today.