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How Much Should I Ask for Pain and Suffering From a Car Accident?

by John Gomez | Last Updated: January 19, 2022

Pain and Suffering From a Car Accident

If you were in a car accident, you know that the process of recovery can take a lot longer and hurt more than you expected. You must deal with the cost of repairs to your damaged vehicle, your medical bills, and expenses accrued from time off work. You will also probably suffer a lot of pain and suffering as you attempt to recover mentally and emotionally from the trauma.

If you are in a car accident that was not your fault, you can ask for compensation from the at-fault driver. The at-fault driver has the right and responsibility to pay you back for the expenses their mistake has added to your life. To ask for this compensation, you simply have to determine how much you lost, financially and personally, in the accident. To do this, you need a lawyer who knows how much pain and suffering you should ask for after a car accident.

What Is Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering is a broad category of damages that victims of personal injury accidents may recover from the at-fault party after an accident. It can cover a wide range of losses. The Legal Information Institute defines pain and suffering as “physical discomfort and emotional distress” that you can recover as part of your non-economic damages.

The definition of pain and suffering and what the category covers varies from state to state. However, in its most basic form, it includes physical pain and ongoing emotional suffering you will inevitably face after a car accident.

How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated After an Accident?

As you may imagine, actually calculating pain and suffering can be somewhat complicated. Because much of the suffering you will endure is internal and unmeasurable, determining its worth in monetary value is not easy. However, with help from a good personal injury lawyer, you should be able to calculate a just and fair amount to include in your quest for compensation.

There are two main ways that lawyers will attempt to calculate pain and suffering. These methods intend to properly evaluate the cost of your pain and suffering by accounting for economic losses and working towards an appropriate estimate. These two methods are called the Multiplier method and the Per Diem method.

The Multiplier Method

With the multiplier method, your attorney will first look at your economic damages, such as property repair expenses, lost income, and medical bills. Then, they will multiply the total amount of economic damages you have suffered by a number intended to represent your pain and suffering to calculate the amount you should earn in compensation. The number usually ranges between 1.5 and 5, depending on the main factors in your case.

For example, the multiplier number may increase due to more serious injuries, if your injuries cost you a great deal of trouble in your daily life or jeopardize your future, and if the other driver was grossly negligent.

This method is probably the most commonly used, especially by insurance companies who should pay your settlement. However, while insurance companies will probably want to set a lower multiple, you may believe you deserve a higher one. This is why it is helpful to have a lawyer on your side to help ensure you get a fair and accurate assessment of your pain and suffering.

The Per Diem Method

Per diem is Latin for “per day.” With this method, the insurance company and your lawyers will calculate your pain and suffering by using a daily rate similar to a daily wage. Those who use this method argue that dealing with pain and suffering compares to the work you might do at a job. Therefore, you should receive a similar daily wage.

Usually, you would first look at the daily wage you earn at your job, then account for the days when you endured serious pain and suffering from your injuries. Multiply that daily wage by the number of days you suffered, and you would get an amount for pain and suffering.

This method can be useful, but it is not as commonly used because it can be hard to determine exactly how much you should earn per day based on the severity of your injuries. It also does not work well if your injuries are long-term or permanent, since you would not be able to receive payment for every day of the rest of your life.

Regardless of which method you use, you will want to talk to a lawyer beforehand. While most states, including California, allow for injured parties to receive compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, many states also place a cap on how much you can receive. For example, in California, non-economic damages are capped at $250,000 in most cases.

To decide how much you can pursue, get a lawyer to ensure you follow every legal requirement. Let an attorney make these calculations for you and go after the compensation you deserve.

What Should I Do After a Car Accident to Help Calculate Pain and Suffering?

One of the most important aspects of calculating pain and suffering is having the evidence necessary to prove how much you have lost. Again, while it is hard to get actual physical evidence of internal pain and suffering, certain things can help. After a car accident, the most important thing you can do is gather the evidence available to you and get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible to start putting it all together.

Here are the types of evidence you can gather that might help you calculate pain and suffering after a car accident:

  • Medical bills and records. While these will be most helpful in calculating your economic losses, they will also provide a foundation for understanding how much you have suffered based on the money and time you have spent on your recovery.
  • A personal journal. A journal is a great way to take down a record of your suffering, including the emotional pain, the physical pain, and the ways that your injuries have impacted your life and stolen activities or other benefits away from you. Also, keep track of relationship struggles or broken relationships that resulted after your accident.
  • Witness testimony from friends and family. You will find it helpful to bring friends and family to testify about some of your suffering. Two witnesses are always better than one.
  • Documentation of lost income and work. Keep track of the hours you lose and the potential earnings that you lose. Keeping an account of these losses will help determine the impact of your pain and suffering on your daily life and your future.
  • Medical testimony. Finding a doctor or other medical expert to testify in your case could be crucial to the outcome. Medical experts can provide essential information about how your injury has impacted you based on the evidence they have seen in their years of service. They may also be able to provide a fair and strong estimate of what kind of suffering you will endure in the future that could add to your claim.

Each of these pieces of evidence can provide a valuable foundation for kick-starting the calculation of your pain and suffering. However, you need help from a lawyer as soon as possible so you do not forget anything. You can easily miss important and relevant information if you don’t know the legal system in your state or what evidence you can present in court.

What Other Damages Can I Claim Compensation for?

In addition to pain and suffering, there are a variety of other damages you can seek compensation for after your accident. These usually include all of your economic losses and a few non-economic losses. While pain and suffering can encompass your non-economic losses, it is helpful to look at exactly what is included in your total amount of damages so that you can estimate more accurately what you could earn.

Other damages you can include in your claim for compensation include:

  • Medical expenses, from emergency room visits to surgeries to ongoing therapy to medication prescriptions.
  • Property damage expenses to repair your car, your phone, or other valuables damaged in the crash.
  • Loss of income and loss of future earning capacity (usually the result of serious injuries that prevent you from returning to the same job or activity level as before).
  • Loss of life enjoyment resulting from an inability to perform activities you used to love.
  • Loss of consortium, i.e., loss of important relationships.
  • Emotional trauma and distress, including nightmares or PTSD.

As you begin the recovery process after your accident, it is important to keep track of everything you are suffering internally. While you may not be the one to determine the amount of pain and suffering you recover, you will be the only one who can explain how it feels to your lawyers and/or the judge and jury assigned to your case.

How Much Will I Get for My Pain and Suffering?

As you can see, it is not easy to determine exactly how much you will get from your pain and suffering. Every case varies, and while you may feel that you deserve more for your suffering, you may not be able to reach the settlement you are looking for during negotiations with the insurance company. What you will get in compensation for your pain and suffering depends mostly on what you can reasonably claim and prove with legal help.

Whether they are using the multiplier method, the per diem method, or a mixture of the two, lawyers and insurance companies evaluating your claim will have to take into account the amount of suffering you can prove, the severity of future suffering you will endure, and the significance of the at-fault party’s mistake.

For example, if the other driver was drunk, your case will probably earn a higher settlement because their negligence is easy to see and prove. However, if their fault is less clear or there was more than one driver involved in causing the accident, you may not be able to earn quite as much from the other party.

In the end, you could receive anywhere from a few hundred to a few million dollars in pain and suffering. Most cases will fall somewhere in the middle, with you potentially earning tens or hundreds of thousands. It all depends on the available evidence and the severity of your case.

Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer to Calculate Pain and Suffering?

In any car accident situation where you will have to negotiate a settlement, you should hire a personal injury lawyer. This is especially important in cases where you have to calculate pain and suffering. The insurance company will calculate what they believe you deserve, but because insurance companies need to make money despite your claim, they might try to calculate the lowest amount possible.

To recover what you deserve, you need legal support. A car accident lawyer will calculate the highest amount possible for you to pursue in compensation and do everything they can to help you negotiate for that amount with the insurance company. If you cannot get the highest amount, at the very least, a lawyer can help you earn a more just amount than you could get from the insurance company on your own.

If you have been in a car accident and are looking for help calculating and fighting for compensation for pain and suffering, do not hesitate to reach out to a lawyer today for a free consultation.

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