Pain and Suffering Definition
Pain and suffering covers the physical and emotional damages a person experiences as the result of an injury. Unlike economic damages related to medical bills and property damage, pain and suffering is more subjective.
The effects of an injury can be felt long after the accident took place. Receiving fair compensation plays a large role in getting your life back on track, but what determines a fair settlement if you’ve been impacted in ways that don’t have a price tag, like no longer being able to participate in your hobbies?
For those situations, injured parties are awarded pain and suffering damages. No matter where you’re at in your lawsuit, looking at pain and suffering settlement examples can help put your expected settlement into perspective.
Pain and Suffering Decoded
Pain and suffering is the term used to describe non-economic damages people can claim due to their physical and emotional injuries. Non-economic damages involve the effects of an injury that are less tangible than clear-cut expenses.
Non-economic damages can be subjective since they are not tied to specific bills like economic damages are. Take a look at the chart below for more information on their differences.
When making your claim, you won’t need to choose between pursuing economic or non-economic damages. You can receive both for the same injury, but you’ll need to quantify each separately.
Examples of Pain and Suffering Damages
Pain and suffering damages fall under one of two categories: physical and emotional. Sometimes there isn’t a clear line drawn between the physical and emotional effects of an injury, so it’s common for there to be overlap, such as a physical impairment leading to a loss of quality of life. In those cases, both should be claimed in pain and suffering lawsuits.
Physical Pain and Suffering Examples
Physical pain and suffering applies to how your injury physically affects you outside of economic factors like losing your job. This might include:
- Physical impairment: Losing mobility or control of a body part, like having a bum knee, will impact your day-to-day life even though you might be able to continue working at your job.
- Physical pain: An injury causing minor to severe discomfort, like whiplash, can cause daily distress and is worth seeking damages for.
- Disfigurement: Receiving permanent scarring directly from your injury, like burns from a fire, or from surgery to treat the injury, are both eligible for pain and suffering damages.
- Sexual dysfunction: An injury can prevent a person from performing at the same level of sexual activity they had before. This can take the form of reduced physical pleasure or libido.
Just because you’re claiming the physical effects of an injury doesn’t mean you can’t also claim its emotional effects.
Emotional Pain and Suffering Examples
Emotional pain and suffering stems from the effects of an injury on a person’s mental health. Sometimes it can be linked to a specific injury, while other times it will be a result of experiencing the incident. This might include:
- Loss of quality of life: Some injuries can have far-reaching consequences that can prevent you from enjoying areas of your life at the same level you once did. One way an injury can cause a loss of quality of life is if you can no longer take part in a hobby, reducing your overall happiness.
- Emotional distress: Lasting changes to your mood should not be overlooked in a personal injury lawsuit. Experiencing anger, anxiety, grief or depression following an accident should be taken seriously due to the effect that emotional distress has on your life. People who are admitted to hospitals for unintentional injuries are five times more likely to attempt suicide.
- Inconvenience: While an injury is never convenient, there are some circumstances in which it creates an undue burden. You may be able to claim inconvenience under pain and suffering if you’re unable to pick your children up from school or run regular errands, for example.
- Loss of companionship: Losing the ability to connect with a significant other or child due to the trauma of an injury can send a life into disarray. You can receive pain and suffering damages if you’re no longer able to care for family members or provide affection in the same way.
These examples, along with those listed as physical pain and suffering examples, shouldn’t be seen as all-encompassing. If you’ve been affected in another way that you think deserves compensation, bring it up with your personal injury lawyer to see if it qualifies for compensation.
How Pre-Suit Pain and Suffering Settlements Are Calculated By the Insurance Company
There are two approaches that insurance companies use to calculate what they believe is the value of an injured person’s pain and suffering.
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method works by adding up all of the economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages, involved in the case and multiplying that figure by a number between one and five. The multiplier is chosen based on a variety of factors. Generally, a multiplier of one is used for mild injuries and a multiplier of five is used for severe injuries. Insurance companies will almost always use a lower multiplier because they want to pay injured victims as little as possible.
Take a look at this hypothetical case to see how the math works:
Pain and Suffering Settlement Example: The Multiplier Method
John is injured in a car accident. He requires surgery and misses one month of work. His medical bills add up to $25,000 and his lost wages are $6,000. His total economic losses come to $31,000.
John still experiences mild pain one year after his surgery and it limits his physical movements, affecting his daily life. John’s lawyer uses a multiplier of 5 to account for this.
$31,000 x 5 = $155,000
John’s lawyer uses $155,000 as a starting point to begin pain and suffering negotiations with the insurance adjuster.
The Per Diem Method
The per diem method is an alternative to the multiplier method in determining pain and suffering damages. This method is used far less often than the multiplier method. To do this, you assign a certain dollar value to each day you’ve experienced pain and suffering after the accident.
It is difficult to determine an appropriate per diem. Sometimes, that value is equal to what your daily earnings were before the accident. Again, the insurance company will come up with a per diem that is as low as possible. Let’s apply this method to the previous example to see how the results differ:
Pain and Suffering Settlement Example: The Per Diem Method
Since John made $6,000 per month, that’s about $300 per day of work. If he experienced pain and suffering for one year after the accident, we’d use 365 days as the multiplier:
$300 x 365 days = $109,500
Both the multiplier method as well as the per diem method are starting points for the negotiation process. The figures drawn from these methods shouldn’t be seen as guarantees of what your final settlement will be. You should understand that every accident and injury are different and those differences can lead to vastly different settlements among injured victims.
Factors Affecting Your Pain and Suffering Settlement
Since pain and suffering is relatively subjective when compared to other damages like medical treatments, some states have regulations in place to prevent its abuse. They do this by placing a limit on the total amount of pain and suffering damages a person can be awarded.
The exact limit varies by state, which can be seen in the table below:
Another factor affecting your pain and suffering settlement is the state of your injury at the time of the settlement. Most claims won’t be settled until your medical treatment has been completed so that all parties know the true extent of your injuries and their long-term impact on your life.
If you make a full recovery and return to work, you should expect to receive lower pain and suffering awards than if you were living with a permanent disability.
How To Receive the Highest Pain and Suffering Settlement Possible
Documenting all of the ways you’ve been physically and financially limited is a great place to start in helping your pain and suffering claim. If your injury prevents you from going to work, make sure you have a doctor’s note excusing your absence.
Keeping track of your missed work days, the medical treatments you’ve received and how your injury is affecting your day-to-day life will all make it easier to argue for fair damages.
The other way to ensure just compensation is by hiring a good lawyer. A lawyer experienced in personal injury law will be able to:
- Accurately estimate the value of your case
- Negotiate low settlement offers
- Provide assistance in other areas related to your injury
The skills of a good lawyer can easily make up for their fee by getting you a settlement higher than what you could negotiate on your own.
After an accident, I always recommend clients keep a journal of their experiences. In the journal, an accident victim should write how they are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. They should also document things like days they miss from work, days when their work is limited by their injuries, or times they are not able to participate in an activity with their friends or loved ones because of their injuries. When we sit down with our clients to prepare their demand to the insurance company, we can review their journal and paint a more complete picture of the very real ways in which the accident impacted the client’s life.
Pain and suffering is meant to help compensate injured parties in the areas of their lives that aren’t addressed in economic damages.
Use these pain and suffering settlement examples to guide your injury claim so that you can receive the payment you’re entitled to.
FAQs Regarding Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is a broad term, so we’ve addressed some common questions surrounding the topic.
What Are the Three Types of Damages?
The three types of personal injury damages are:
- Economic: These include medical costs, property damage and lost wages resulting from the injury. Economic damages are usually easy to identify with a precise dollar amount.
- Non-economic: These include pain and suffering resulting from physical and emotional trauma. Non-economic damages are less tangible than economic damages and are open to interpretation.
- Punitive: These include damages awarded to the injured party as a way to punish the offender for malicious or grossly negligent conduct. Punitive damages are rare and usually only awarded under extreme circumstances.
Do Some States Place Caps on a Victim’s Pain and Suffering Awards?
Some states do place caps on the amount of pain and suffering awards a person can receive. Even in states that have this cap, it may apply only to specific cases, such as injuries resulting from medical malpractice.
Does Surgery Lead to a Larger Pain and Suffering Payout?
If your injury requires surgery, you are more likely to receive a larger payout. That’s because you have larger economic damages, and likely larger non-economic damages too. More damages means a higher settlement, assuming the defendant has sufficient insurance coverage.
Written ByLuke Krolak
Client Operations Lead
About the author
Luke is a warm-hearted and highly skilled legal operations expert with an impressive 8-year track record in the personal injury field. As the Client Operations Lead at Mighty, he is dedicated to providing exceptional support, transparent communication, and genuine empathy to clients during their challenging journey. His expertise in streamlining processes and implementing cutting-edge technology makes him an indispensable ally for clients, case managers, and attorneys in their pursuit of justice.
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