Car Accident Settlement: Pain and Suffering

Published on: 12/10/20 — In 

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The compensation you should get for pain and suffering depends on how severe the car accident was and the injuries you have suffered. So, you should consult an attorney and get a professional opinion on the amount of pain and suffering compensation to ask for. Here at Ktenas Injury Lawyers, we can help you get fair compensation. Contact us today at (312) 300-2515 or chat with us online for a FREE consultation.

Car accident lawyer Chris Ktenas

What Counts as Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering is a legal term that describes both the physical and emotional trauma, a car accident victim suffers after an accident. Thus, any substantial physical or mental anguish you suffer after an accident may count as pain and suffering for compensation purposes. Sometimes, if a car accident victim dies from a personal injury because of another person’s negligence, the family’s wrongful death claim can also include loss of consortium.

Pain and suffering is a phrase used to refer to non-economic “general” damages that you can’t calculate by adding up medical bills and receipts.

Pain and suffering can be caused by:

  • Physical pain and anguish, whether temporary or permanent.
  • Anxiety, depression, insomnia, memory loss, or other emotional disorders.
  • Loss of consortium or loss of a supportive relationship with your family members.
  • Physical inability, including the inability to hug or play with your children.
  • And any other emotional or psychological anguish.

How Do Insurance Companies Calculate Pain and Suffering?

Any insurance company handling your bodily injury claim starts its analysis with one important assumption: if you didn’t see a doctor, you aren’t in any pain.

Although there are exemptions to this rule, often insurance companies assume that injuries that lead to more medical treatment include more pain and suffering than those that require minimal medical treatment. Also, insurance companies often assume that bodily injuries that need a lengthier recovery time potentially cause more pain and suffering than those that heal quickly. These assumptions influence how insurance adjusters value an injury claim.

Thus, after a car accident, if you don’t see a doctor, the insurance company will attach little value to your injury. This might be the case, even though you’re in pain, and the injury is real to you. The insurance company deems it’s your word that you suffered injuries and that you’re experiencing pain and suffering.

woman holding her neck after a car accident, pain and suffering

However, if there’s a medical corroboration to your injury, the insurance company is more likely to attach a higher value to your injury. For example, if you sustain soft tissue injuries following a car accident. If you seek medical attention, the doctor will listen to the description of your symptoms and do a physical examination. The doctor will note in your medical records that you came to the hospital with discomfort in certain areas of your body after a car accident. Also, the doctor’s notes will include findings from the physical examination.

The insurance company will then access your medical records as part of your injury claim analysis. To the insurance company, the fact that you went to see a doctor validates your injury. The insurance company assumes that if you really weren’t in pain, you wouldn’t have sought medical attention. This also applies to any lost time from work. You won’t get paid unless you show up at your job. Thus, if you were off work because of a car accident, this also supports your claim that you’re experiencing pain and suffering because of the accident.

Evidence of Your Pain and Suffering

To increase the odds of getting the maximum compensation for pain and suffering, you must provide as much evidence as possible to the insurance company and the court. Here are examples of evidence your personal injury attorney and the insurance carrier will review to determine if you’re eligible for compensation and how much you should get:

  • Medical records. Presenting your past and current medical records will provide information about your past injuries, treatment, and recovery. The other party’s attorney and the insurance company will look for pre-existing injuries to devalue your pain and suffering claim by arguing that the car accident wasn’t the cause of your injuries. Any prescriptions, such as pain medication or antidepressants, can help support your claim of ongoing pain and suffering and any emotional distress you may deal with from the trauma of being involved in a car accident.
  •  Medical bills. Your medical costs can provide evidence of the financial burden you’re dealing with following the car accident injuries. This may include providing receipts and medical costs of hospitalization, surgery, radiology, ambulance, and emergency services. Make sure to keep track of all medical bills related to the accident settlement.
  • Official police report. A copy of the final police report can help solidify liability and provide evidence about how the accident happened. This can prove that the injuries you sustained are consistent with the way police officers at the scene described the accident, which can increase your pain and suffering settlement.
  • Photos of injuries. A description of your bodily injuries from you and your doctor is helpful, however, a photograph of the injury is worth more. If you have photos of your injuries, this makes it harder for insurance companies and the at-fault party to deny your claim or devalue your claim based on causation.
  • Victim impact statements. The defense, your attorney, and the insurance company may interview people who knew you before the car accident and also those who know you now, after the accident. Typically, they’ll speak to unbiased people, such as your colleagues or your boss. These statements can prove how car accident injuries have affected your life, potentially increasing your pain and suffering settlement.
  • Opinions from experts. Often, attorneys consult with medical professionals to review your case and get an opinion about your injuries and prognosis. Sometimes, this may support your doctor’s opinion, and other times refute it. For example, attorneys on both sides may consult with an orthopedic surgeon if you have suffered a spinal injury, or they may consult a behavioral specialist; if you have been experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder following the accident. Depending on your situation and opinion, expert testimonies and statements may increase the amount you receive for pain and suffering.

Determining the amount you receive for pain and suffering following a car accident is a highly subjective process that often is one of the major points of disagreement during accident settlement negotiations. So, it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced car accident attorney to increase your odds of receiving the maximum payout for your pain and suffering.

How to Calculate Pain and Suffering Settlements

It is difficult to determine general damages. However, there are several approaches that insurance companies use to calculate pain and suffering settlements. The two most common approaches are:

Multiplier method

The most common approach when determining pain and suffering settlement is adding up all your special damages: these include your calculable economic damages. Then, multiply the total by a number between 1.5 on the lower spectrum and 4 or 5 on the higher spectrum.

The multiplier depends on your situation, including the severity of your injuries, the prospects for a quick and full recovery, the impact of the injuries on your daily life, and whether the other party was fully at fault for the underlying accident.

Insurance companies mostly use the multiplier method. However, in most accident settlement negotiations, the sticking point is the multiplier used. In most cases, you’ll argue for a higher multiplier while the defense team or the insurance company will want to use a lower multiplier. This list of factors can help you determine a reasonable multiplier.

Per Diem Method

This method allows you to demand a certain dollar amount for each day you have lived with pain and suffering after an accident.

The hard part of this method is justifying the daily rate you use. To make sure your daily rate is “reasonable,” use your actual, daily earnings rate. Here, the argument is that living with the pain and suffering caused by car accident injuries each day is comparable to the effort of going to work each day.

For example, if you suffered mild neck pain; you may have to wear a neck brace and take pain pills for three months. If you suffer this pain for six months, that’s roughly 180 days. If at your current job, you earned $50,000 per year: that’s $200 per day if you divide your annual income by 250 working days per year.

To get your pain and suffering settlement, multiply your $200 daily rate by 180 days of pain and suffering, you get $36,000.

This approach falls apart for long-term or permanent injuries. In this case, you should consult a car accident attorney, and your settlement could be based on related verdicts and settlements in your jurisdiction: data that only an attorney can access.

man on the ground injured after an accident, pain and suffering

How Do You Know What’s Fair

To know what’s fair, run whatever settlement the insurance company offers you against the popular methods of determining pain and suffering. For instance, if the insurance company offers you $10,000. Using the per diem method, assign a “reasonably fair” amount with no bias to your daily suffering. Whatever value you get, look for circumstances that could significantly increase or decrease it.

If the injury left you with permanent scars on your face, this could increase your value. The reasoning here is that apart from losing your job because of the scars, the emotional anguish of living with such a scar is quite intense.

However, if the injuries you sustained were mild and only lasted for a short time, it’s reasonable to go easy with your value. Compare the amount you arrive at with what the insurance company is offering you, if it’s reasonably close, then you’re likely getting fair compensation. But if it’s low and you’re sure your numbers are right, then it's a sign the insurance company is lowballing you.

Contact an Attorney to Help You!

An experienced personal injury lawyer can make a tremendous difference in how much compensation you recover for pain and suffering. This compensation matters—it will help you rebuild your life, especially after a traumatic car accident. Here at Ktenas Injury Lawyers, we’ll help you determine what you deserve in pain and suffering. Don’t wait. Call us today at (312) 300-2515 or chat with us online for a FREE consultation.