After an Injury, How Do They Figure Pain and Suffering Damages?

by Stephanie Andre | Last Updated: August 14, 2020

If you were injured in an accident and want to seek compensation from the at-fault party, it’s common to submit proof of your financial losses such as medical expenses, property damages, and lost wages. The figures for these are typically concrete and it’s fairly straightforward for an insurance company, judge, or jury to determine what you should be paid to make you whole again.

When it comes to “pain and suffering,” however, it’s more difficult. How much should you be paid for having to go through the pain you did, or for the anxiety you still experience? It’s not easy to pin down a dollar amount on these types of damages, but there are two common methods that insurance companies and courts use to come up with a figure. We explain these methods below.

What is Pain and Suffering?

“Pain and suffering” is a legal term that represents non-economic, “general” damages that can’t be calculated from bills and receipts. It refers to emotional distress, mental anguish, physical pain, and the loss of enjoyment of life that may follow an accident and serious injury. Though these types of damages vary depending on the individual, they all rob a person of his or her overall comfort, happiness, and opportunity.

All of the below conditions may fit under the umbrella of pain and suffering:

  • Physical and mental anguish caused by the injury
  • The overall inconvenience of the injury and its resulting complications
  • General discomfort caused by ongoing aches and pains
  • Temporary or permanent restrictions on activity
  • The stress and difficulty that comes from lasting or permanent disability
  • Embarrassment and anxiety over physical deformities and disfigurement
  • Loss of capacity for enjoying life
  • Inability to do the activities you once enjoyed
  • The shortening of your life

How to Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages

The two most common methods used to calculate pain and suffering as a monetary figure include:

  1. The multiplier method: The insurance company, attorney, and/or court multiplies the plaintiff’s actual damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) by a “multiplier”, generally between 1 and 5. The multiplier is determined by the severity of the injury, the prospects for recovery, and the impact on daily life.
  2. The per diem (daily rate) method: The insurance company, attorney, and/or court assigns a certain dollar figure to every day from the date of the accident until the plaintiff is considered to be fully recovered. That daily rate is often based on occupational earnings or in more severe cases, other verdicts and settlements.

Using the first method, for example, if a plaintiff has medical expenses totaling $10,000 after an accident injury, multiplying that by three would result in a $30,000 pain and suffering request. Using the second method, if the plaintiff required 60 days to fully recover from the injury, and the amount per day was set at $100, the total amount for pain and suffering would be $6,000.

Often, both of these methods are used to come up with a range, after which the number is adjusted as desired.

Insurance companies and courts are not under any obligation to use either of these methods and may use other options like computer programs to determine pain and suffering amounts. The programs may take into account the type of injury, the type of medical treatment sought, and the length of treatment time.

Even with all these methods, there is a level of subjectivity to pain and suffering damages. In general, those considering these damages should focus mostly on whether the amount is fair and just in light of the evidence.