Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit will take time and dedication. Before you embark on such an endeavor, you want to know that this task will be worth your time and energy. Although there are never any guarantees, there are certain aspects of personal injury lawsuits that you can familiarize yourself with in order to determine if you have a good chance of winning. Because there is no flat amount that an insurance company will pay for this type of compensation, it is important to have a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who will be able to advise you on how much you can expect to be awarded.
This guide will help you get started on your personal injury education. Here we will cover information concerning how much insurance companies are likely to pay for pain and suffering. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions about personal injury cases and pain and suffering payments in particular.
Understanding pain and suffering payments
There are many deciding factors that will go into determining a payout for pain and suffering. This process would be much more simple if there were a standard method of calculating such things, but because there is not, individuals must be very careful to make sure they are not being cheated. This is one of the many reasons why it is very important and helpful to have a personal injury attorney on your side.
Some insurance companies use computer software to take some of the guesswork out of calculating pain and suffering. Pain and suffering are not considered economic compensation. This means that you cannot simply turn in documents documenting the amount of money it costs someone, as you would with medical bills, or lost income. Because pain and suffering can vary so widely from person to person, the amount of compensation can vary widely too. Computer software can help insurance companies calculate this. However, the drawback is that sometimes a computer program cannot take into consideration the very personal nature of how a personal injury may have affected someone’s life. For instance, if a divorce results because of someone’s life being altered by an injury, it is difficult to put that type of pain into numbers.
One of the first things your lawyer can look into will be whether or not the other party has a personal injury insurance policy. Under these types of policies, there will be guidelines for payouts for pain and suffering. These amounts can give your lawyer a good starting place when considering how much compensation to ask for.
Factors that determine pain and suffering payments
The topic of how to accurately calculate pain and suffering for legal cases has been studied in depth by educational institutions such as Northwestern University School of Law. The study that was conducted by the legal experts at Northwestern determined that there are certain factors that can be used in these calculations. Let’s take a look at these factors in-depth.
Pain and Suffering Insurance Policies- As mentioned above, the offending party may have a personal injury insurance policy in place. This can be referenced as a starting point to calculate how much is owed to you. Even if the other party does not have this policy in place, pain and suffering calculations as already established by insurance companies can be used as a reference point in each state to help determine a fair amount.
Computer-Based Cost Algorithm- Insurance companies will also have computer programs that can help them use an algorithm to determine an amount to be awarded for pain and suffering.
Type of injury- The types of injuries are examined closely using medical records.
Severity of Injury- The severity of the injury will also be examined using medical records. The severity of the injury will vary from person to person and must be considered on an individual level.
Treatment Needed- The types of treatment that are needed to treat the injury as well as treatments that will be needed in the future is also a very important deciding factor when determining this type of compensation.
State Laws- State law must also be consulted to determine how to calculate pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit.
There can be other factors as well. The details that go into calculating this type of compensation can become confusing and overwhelming. This is why many people choose to have a personal injury lawyer help them navigate their lawsuits.
Insurance company procedures
Most insurance companies will offer pain and suffering compensation as part of a settlement. However, in most cases, the initial amounts that are offered by the insurance company are far from fair. Again, this is why you need a legal professional on your side to evaluate any and all offers that are made to you from the insurance company or from the other party privately.
There are a few methods used to determine pain and suffering payouts.
- Per Diem Method- This method uses a daily amount. All of your economic damages are calculated, such as medical expenses and lost wages. This amount is then given a daily value using how many days you have suffered since your injury. A pain and suffering amount per day is then assigned to you.
- Multiplier Method- Another method is the multiplier method. Under this method, a number between one and five is assigned to your pain and suffering. This will be based on how severe your injuries were. Your other damages will then be multiplied by that amount.
A good personal injury attorney will work with the insurance companies to make sure you are treated fairly.
Pain and suffering compensation caps
You should also be aware that many states do have caps on how much can be awarded to an individual for pain and suffering. You will need to research the caps for your state to fully understand what a fair amount would be.
Reasons to ask for pain and suffering compensation
In a personal injury case, there are different types of compensation that can be demanded. You can be compensated for your medical expenses, lost income, and property damage. So, if you can already ask for these types of compensation, why bother with pain and suffering compensation?
The reason you should ask for pain and suffering compensation is that there are certain aspects to a life-altering injury that do not fall under medical expenses, property damage, or lost income. Your life will be affected in a multitude of ways. These changes will cause pain and suffering that cannot be recorded on a bill. But just because it cannot be recorded and documented does not mean that it is not real.
Our justice system has determined that pain and suffering is a real type of damage and does deserve compensation. The money you are awarded for pain and suffering could also help to pay for bills and expenses that your other compensation perhaps did not cover.
Pain and suffering negotiations
It is often necessary for there to be some aspect of negotiations when it comes to pain and suffering compensation. In most cases, you will not accept the first settlement offer. Most attorneys will discourage their clients from taking the first offer. The reason for this is that the first offer is often not a fair or comprehensive amount. The insurance company will always first attempt to get out of the case with an amount that is beneficial to them, not to you. This is why you need an attorney to help advise on this. Your personal injury attorney will be well trained in how to negotiate with the insurance company to reach a fair amount.
Although negotiations may feel intimidating, you should remember that negotiating the amount is the best way to ensure you get fair compensation. Even if you feel intimidated by this process, you can rest assured that your personal injury attorney is well versed in how to handle such situations and will fight for you.
The evidence that you and your attorney have been collecting over the weeks and months since your injury will be helpful during negotiations. This gives you the leverage you need to demand what is fair. Most insurance companies do not want to go to trial. Going to trial will substantially increase their costs. A good personal injury attorney can often use negotiations to get you a fair settlement out of court.
Types of injuries that qualify for pain and suffering compensation
There are many different types of injuries that might qualify you for pain and suffering compensation. As a general rule, any personal injury has the potential to also qualify you for pain and suffering compensation. Let’s look at some common types of personal injuries.
Car Accidents- Vehicle accidents are one of the most common types of personal injuries. A vehicle accident can be caused by many factors, but in some cases, one party is definitively at fault. An example might be when a drunk driver strikes another driver. In a situation like this, the drunk driver is entirely at fault for the accident and can be sued for damages including pain and suffering.
Negligence- Negligence lawsuits can also qualify for pain and suffering compensation. Negligence is a rather broad legal term that can include many different types of wrongdoing. In most cases, negligence is a result of a person failing to provide the proper care or protection for someone to whom they had an obligation of care. If this negligence then resulted in injury, the offending party can also be sued for pain and suffering.
Work Place Injuries- If a workplace injury takes place and it can be proven that the employer was somehow responsible for the injury, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit with pain and suffering. Employers are under many rules and regulations to provide a safe work environment. If your injury is a result of your employer not staying in compliance with these regulations, they could be held responsible.
Product Injuries- An injury that results from using a faulty or contaminated product could qualify for a personal injury case. The producers of any product that is sold are under the responsibility to provide a product that is safe and will not cause harm.
Property Injuries- If you are injured on someone’s private property, you may qualify for pain and suffering compensation as part of a personal injury lawsuit. Property owners have a responsibility to keep their properties safe to avoid injuries. If the property owner fails to keep their property in safe or orderly conditions and you are injured as a result, you may be able to bring a lawsuit.
Slip and Fall Injuries- If you slip and fall in a store or other place of business, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Business owners are required by state and local laws to keep their place of business safe to avoid falls and injuries. If the business owner fails to do this and you are injured, you should talk with a personal injury lawyer.
Pain and Suffering Questions and Answers
Q: How are pain and suffering different from medical bills?
A: The medical bills that result from your injury are an important part of your case. You can be compensated separately for medical bills and pain and suffering. The reason for this is that although you did have to spend money on your medical care, the stress, pain, and trauma of going through that medical care and dealing with your injuries on a daily basis is an entirely different type of suffering. That stress, pain, and trauma were caused by the other party and should therefore be compensated for as well.
Q: How much should I ask for?
A: This amount will vary dramatically from case to case. You will need to consult a personal injury attorney to learn how much you should ask for.
Q: Can I trust a pain and suffering settlement calculator?
A: The computer programs that are used by insurance companies to calculate pain and suffering are not perfect. This is why the amount the insurance company calculates should be balanced out with the knowledge and expertise of a personal injury attorney. This professional will be able to advise you on whether or not the amount is fair.
Q: Will I receive more if my car was totaled?
A: If your personal injury was the result of an automobile accident, and your car was totaled, you can expect to receive more in pain and suffering. Pain and suffering amounts will be calculated based on the total amount of damages. Generally speaking, the higher the amount of total damages the higher the amount of pain and suffering.
If you lost your vehicle during the accident, then the lost property damage amount will be higher for you. Using the multiplier method or the per diem method will both result in a higher pain and suffering amount for you because the property damage amount was higher also.
Should I contact the insurance company myself?
Although you may be very tempted to communicate directly with the insurance company, most personal injury attorneys will discourage this. When you start working with a personal injury lawyer, one of the first things they will do on your behalf will be to send a letter to the other party or the insurance company. In this letter the lawyer will outline your injuries, medical treatment received, medical treatment you will need in the future, and property damages.
If you do decide to send a letter, often referred to as a demand letter, you should most definitely run it by your lawyer first. They will be able to advise you on how to word the letter properly, what to put in and what to leave out.
If you write a letter, do not demand or ask for a certain amount of money for pain and suffering. Even lawyers do not initially put a number on the pain and suffering. You will want to wait until all of your other damages have been properly calculated. This way, you will have a solid number to use to multiply with for pain and suffering. Remember, pain and suffering are often considered to be all other damages multiplied by a certain amount. Your attorney and the insurance company will work together to determine what a fair amount is.
If you demand or ask for a certain amount upfront, it could turn out that you were actually entitled to far more once all of the damages were calculated. Be patient. Patience often pays off in these situations.
Q: What if I want to take the first offer?
A: If you have been through a very traumatic, very expensive personal injury, you may be very tempted to take the first offer from the insurance company. People are often tempted to take the first offer because they are tired, stressed, and financially spent after weeks or months of dealing with trauma, pain, and medical bills. You may feel like any little bit would help. Odds are you will want to take the first offer just so that the whole situation can be finished.
Your lawyer will probably advise you against taking the first offer though. The reason for this is that the first offer is almost always only beneficial to the insurance company. They are making an offer that works well for them to make this go away. That is not fair or just considering that you are the one who was injured. You are the one who has suffered. Not them.
You should also be aware that if you do not have legal representation the insurance company will try to get away with offering you even less. They know that the average person will not have all of the information at their disposal to properly calculate a fair amount of pain and suffering. They will then try to take advantage of that for their own benefit. Having a lawyer on your side immediately lets the insurance company know that you will not settle for less than a just amount.
Q: How do I prove my pain and suffering?
A: You do not actually have to prove your pain and suffering. You will only need to be able to prove your economic damages. These will include property damage, medical expenses, and lost income (both past and future). This will be added up to get a total amount of damages. This total will then be multiplied using either the per diem method or the multiplier method. Your total damages will be multiplied by the number of days and a basic pain and suffering amount per day or by a pain and suffering number that will be assigned to you based on the severity of the injury.
You can, however, better prove the severity of your injury if there was associated trauma for which you have recorded mental health services. If you had to undergo therapy or psychiatric treatment for the trauma caused by your injury, you will definitely want to submit this as evidence of the severity of the injury. This type of evidence could help to increase the severity and thereby increase the amount you are awarded for pain and suffering.
Q: Will a hospital stay increase the payout for pain and suffering?
A: Typically, a hospital stay will increase the amount of your overall damages. Hospital stays can be very expensive, especially if surgery or specialized treatment is needed. The medical bills from your hospital stay should be calculated into your overall medical bills. Your medical damages will then be used to help determine how much you should be awarded for pain and suffering.
Bottom Line on Pain and Suffering Settlements
How much an insurance company will pay for pain and suffering can vary greatly from case to case. There are many factors that will go into determining how much you should be awarded for pain and suffering. Your overall damages will be calculated and then that amount will be multiplied by a number that is deemed fair by the insurance company, your lawyer, and state regulations.
To make sure that you are awarded a fair and just settlement, it is important that you speak with a personal injury lawyer that can help you navigate your personal injury case. The law team at Goodman Acker Injury Firm is ready to assist you today.