How Much Can I Get for Pain and Suffering?

How Much Can I Get for Pain and Suffering

In the context of personal injury law, the term “pain and suffering” is often mentioned when an injured person seeks monetary compensation. After an injury, you should understand what this category of damages means and what impact it can have on the value of a personal injury claim. It is also equally important to know how to calculate pain and suffering and how much money you can get in compensation for these damages.

Below are some ways pain and suffering damages are calculated, what factors affect these calculations, and why you need a personal injury attorney to seek these damages in a personal injury case.

What Does ‘Pain and Suffering’ Mean?

In personal injury law, “pain and suffering” is a legal term that embodies the wide array of physical and emotional distress a person may undergo as a result of an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. Negligence, in turn, refers to a person’s failure to act as a “reasonable” and “ordinary” person would under the same circumstances.

Unlike economic damages – such as medical bills or lost income – which can be easily quantified and documented, pain and suffering refer to non-economic loss and thus are not directly measurable in monetary terms. This category of damages encompasses three key aspects:

  1. Actual physical pain. This includes the immediate pain felt during and after an injury and any ongoing discomfort that might persist through the healing process and possibly become a chronic condition (it often does).
  2. Emotional trauma. Many injured victims experience burdensome emotional distress stemming from their physical injuries. This can manifest as fear, insomnia, grief, worry, a loss of enjoyment of life, and potential psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression.
  3. Reduced quality of life. An injury can severely impact the individual’s ability to enjoy life’s daily pleasures and activities. This can include a loss of consortium, which refers to the impact on the injured person’s relationship with their spouse or partner.

Pain and suffering damages are a vital component of any personal injury claim that aims to provide financial relief for the injuries and agony that go beyond tangible costs. Given the subjective nature of pain and suffering, having a skilled personal injury attorney in your corner can affect the compensation you will receive.

How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated?

Since there is no specific formula to calculate these types of damages, courts or insurance adjusters may use different methods to arrive at a fair number. These include:

Percentage-Based Calculations

How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated

This method involves applying a set percentage to the total economic damages (like medical bills and lost income) to determine pain and suffering damages. The specific percentage can vary widely and is often subjective, based on the nature and extent of the injury and legal precedent. However, this approach is not used very often and may be more appropriate for cases with minor or medium injuries.

  • Example: Your economic damages total $10,000. You and the other party agree that your pain and suffering damages should be calculated at a 50 percent rate. As a result, you can get $5,000 for pain and suffering in addition to those $10,000.

Per Diem Calculations

The per diem approach assigns a daily value to pain and suffering from the day of the accident until the injured person reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI). This daily rate is often based on the individual’s actual daily earnings, reflecting the concept that a day of pain is at least worth a day’s income.

  • Example. Your daily rate is determined to be $100. The number of days from the date of injury to the date of recovery is 128 days. To calculate pain and suffering, multiply the daily rate ($100) by the number of days (128) to get $12,800.

Multiplier Method

The multiplier method adds up all the quantifiable economic expenses (medical expenses, lost earnings, and future medical costs) and multiplies this sum by a number typically between 1.5 and 5. The multiplier is chosen based on factors such as the severity, pain duration, and the injuries’ long-term implications.

  • Example. Your economic damages total $50,000. You are assigned a “3” multiplier based on the severity of injuries. To calculate pain and suffering, you should multiply your total economic damages ($50,000) by 3 (the multiplier) to get $150,000.

Factors That Affect How Much You Can Get for Pain and Suffering

Factors That Affect How Much You Can Get for Pain and Suffering

Calculating pain and suffering is rarely an easy task, primarily because there are many factors to consider. These factors can either increase or decrease the amount of money you can ask for when seeking compensation for your pain and suffering. Below, we will discuss some of the factors that can affect the value of your claim for pain and suffering:

  • Your age. As a rule of thumb, younger individuals will usually receive higher compensation as they will likely deal with the injury’s consequences for a longer period. While each case is unique and requires individualized attention, older individuals’ compensation may be affected by the perception of a shorter period of suffering due to life expectancy considerations.
  • The severity of the physical injury. More severe injuries typically result in higher pain and suffering compensation due to the potential for intense physical pain and long-term disability. On the other hand, fewer injuries may result in lower compensation as they are generally associated with shorter durations of pain and quicker healing.
  • Recovery time. If your injury requires a prolonged recovery period, compensation may reflect the extended duration of your suffering. Shorter recovery times might lead to relatively lower amounts, as the period of suffering is not expected to be as long.
  • Whether or not full recovery is possible. Injuries resulting in long-term or permanent disability can significantly increase the compensation for pain and suffering. However, when full recovery is anticipated, this can potentially lower the amount awarded to the victim, despite the temporary distress and discomfort experienced.
  • The impact of the injury on your daily life. Injuries that drastically alter your day-to-day activities or diminish your quality of life can lead to higher compensations. When disruptions to daily life are less prominent, they will likely result in less compensation.
  • Emotional and psychological trauma associated with the injury. Demonstrable emotional and psychological suffering, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can increase compensation levels. However, if emotional impacts are less apparent or difficult to prove, they may not influence compensation amounts as much. PTSD is a particularly common consequence of traumatic events that result in physical injuries.
  • The strength of the evidence. A well-documented case with compelling evidence can effectively demonstrate the extent of pain and suffering, potentially resulting in higher compensation. However, when the evidence presented by the injured party does not convincingly illustrate the pain and suffering experienced, the recoverable compensation may not be as high.

Legal representation makes you more likely to ensure that all factors are adequately considered when seeking pain and suffering damages. Your lawyer’s job is to get the most money in your claim, so you can rely on their experience when valuing your damages.

How to Prove That You Suffered Pain and Suffering?

How to Prove That You Suffered Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering cannot immediately be measured in financial terms because they do not come with receipts, invoices, or other direct proof of expenses. For this reason, proving that you suffered pain and suffering – and the extent of your pain and suffering – is one of the most challenging parts of the injury claims process. The list below outlines some of the best pieces of evidence you should collect in your case to demonstrate your pain and suffering:

  • Medical records. Your medical records are a testament to the injuries you sustained and the treatments you have undergone to manage your condition. Detailed records can highlight the severity of your injury and how it has affected your life. Gather medical records from all medical professionals on your path to recovery, including physicians, surgeons, psychiatrists, physical therapists, and others.
  • Testimonies from expert witnesses. Expert witnesses often have the authority, based on their professional experience, to attest to the extent of your injuries and how they contribute to pain and suffering. Hire a lawyer to find the appropriate experts to testify for your case.
  • Personal injury journal. Keeping a personal injury journal is an effective – but often overlooked – way to document your daily pain levels, emotional state, and any activities or engagements missed due to your injury. This record can provide a day-to-day account of your experiences, serving as compelling evidence of your ongoing struggle. Try your best to include entries about how your injury affects your life every day from the date of the injury.
  • Testimonies from family and friends. The people close to you can offer invaluable personal insights into how your injury has affected various aspects of your life. Their observations and descriptions of changes in your mood, activities, or abilities provide a narrative of your pain and suffering. Write down the testimonies from your relatives, friends, and colleagues and ask them if they will be willing to testify about your pain and suffering during the insurance claims process and in court.
  • Photo and video evidence. Visuals are always powerful evidence and can often communicate the seriousness of an injury better than words. They can reflect both the incident’s immediate aftermath and its long-term impacts on your life. Take as many photographs of your injuries as possible from day one, record videos that showcase your difficulties with daily tasks (e.g., getting out of bed on your own), and other visuals showing the progression of your injury over time.

If you need help collecting any of these types of evidence, consider contacting a lawyer right away. The longer you wait to gather evidence, the harder it will be to prove your eligibility for this compensation. Also, remember that you have a limited amount of time to initiate legal action. These limits are also known as the statute of limitations and vary between states. In California, for example, injured victims have two years from the date of injury to bring an injury lawsuit.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Help You Recover Pain and Suffering Damages?

While you can attempt to claim pain and suffering damages without legal help, the experience of a personal injury lawyer can be invaluable when seeking maximum compensation. With the support and guidance of a skilled lawyer, you stand a better chance of receiving the full compensation you deserve for the emotional and physical toll of your injury. Here’s why you can benefit from hiring a lawyer when seeking pain and suffering damages:

  • Professional experience. A knowledgeable lawyer understands the intricacies of proving pain and suffering in a personal injury case. They can guide you through the process, ensuring that every aspect of your suffering is properly documented and valued.
  • Accurate valuation. Lawyers are well-versed in calculating reasonable compensation for pain and suffering by using their experience with similar cases and legal precedents. They can consider all the factors at hand when making this valuation to ensure maximum accuracy.
  • Negotiation skills. Personal injury lawyers are usually skilled negotiators, meaning they may secure a higher settlement amount than what an individual can obtain by themselves. Insurance companies tend to take a claimant more seriously when they know the claimant is represented by a lawyer.
  • Representation in court. If your case goes to trial, a lawyer can advocate for your best interests in court and present a compelling argument for your right to recover pain and suffering damages in front of the judge or jury. Court proceedings are more nuanced and complicated than the insurance claims process, so it is imperative to have a lawyer at trial.
  • No upfront legal costs or attorney’s fees. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means you pay your lawyer nothing unless they win your case. With this arrangement, you can access trusted legal representation without any financial risks.
Mickey Fine, Bakersfield Personal Injury Attorney

Personal Injury Lawyer in Bakersfield, Mickey Fine

If you are still unsure whether or not you need a personal injury attorney, you must remember that many firms offer free initial consultations. This risk-free opportunity allows you to discuss your specific situation and understand what an attorney can do for you without any financial commitments.

Personal Injury
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on