How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering?
Personal injury claims involve two main forms of damages: economic (“special”) and non-economic (“general”). Economic damages include financial losses from an accident, such as hospital bills or lost wages. These are easy to calculate, as there is documentation of exactly what the victim spent or lost due to an injury. It is the non-economic damages that are more difficult for courts and judges to valuate. After all, how do you put a dollar amount on intangible harms such as physical pain or emotional suffering? Calculating pain and suffering is a complex process, with no strict rules. For more information, reach out to a knowledgeable Atlanta personal injury lawyer at The Dixon Firm. We’re happy to discuss the specifics of your case in greater detail and help you understand what compensation is available to you.
What Is “Pain and Suffering?”
The Atlanta courts use the umbrella term “pain and suffering” to encompass an enormous range of general damages that could arise from a car accident, slip and fall, wrongful death, or other incident. These damages may include actual pain, mental anguish, psychological damage, nightmares, depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, grief, loss of an individual’s love and companionship, insomnia, fear, worry, humiliation, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment or quality of life. To recover for pain and suffering, an injured party must prove that these harms exist.
Proving pain and suffering is a more difficult process than simply gathering medical bills and evaluating property damage. There is no real, hard evidence the courts can work with to prove that the experience has had a traumatic impact on the victim. Instead, the courts rely on the plaintiff’s testimony and that from expert witnesses. It is up to a plaintiff (and his/her attorneys) to prove pain and suffering by expressing mental anguish, explaining persistent or chronic pain, and relying on testimony from psychologists and other experts.
How the Atlanta Courts Calculate Pain and Suffering
There is no dollar value on someone’s emotional harms. Yet, the Atlanta courts grant awards for accident victims’ emotional damages every day. It is necessary to somehow quantify pain and suffering to help victims recover at least somewhat for their general damages. The courts will typically calculate these damages in one of two main ways:
- Multiplier method. One of the simplest ways to valuate pain and suffering is by multiplying special damages. In this method, the courts will take the amount of total special damages and multiply it by a number between 1.5 and five. The multiplier will depend on the severity of the injury, prospect for recovery, the impact of the injury on life, and the other party’s degree of fault for the accident. This is the method most insurance companies use.
- Per diem method. Also called the “daily rate” method, this calculation looks at the number of days the plaintiff will suffer and awards an amount of compensation per day. A daily rate will depend on the plaintiff’s daily earnings. The understanding is that dealing with the pain of an injury is worth at least as much as a day of pay. This method is not typically appropriate for long-term or permanent injuries.
Your attorney can help you valuate your pain and suffering damages based on the method that works most in your favor. He or she can then demand this amount – on top of special damages – from insurance companies or other defendants during settlement negotiations or trials. To learn more about pain and suffering damages in your specific case, speak to a lawyer.