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Determining Pain & Suffering in a Car Accident Case

After being injured in an auto accident, your recovery is the most important consideration. A crucial aspect of making a full recovery involves determining the appropriate amount of damages. To receive a full award for your losses, you must be able to quantify those losses. That means you have to be able to explain to the jury how you arrived at the total amount of damages you're requesting. This process can prove to be one of the most complex considerations in an auto accident case. One of the most confusing types of damages are those associated with non-economic losses, like pain and suffering. Here's what you need to know about determining pain and suffering damages in a car accident case.

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

One category of damages in a Nevada car accident case is pain and suffering. Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the physical pain and emotional anguish that accompany your injuries. This is different from compensation to pay for your medical bills. Instead, pain and suffering damages are supposed to pay you for the fact that injuries hurt both physically and emotionally.

Pain and Suffering Is a Subjective Determination

With some types of damages, it's easy to arrive at an exact amount. For example, to determine your medical bills, you add up all of your medical expenses — verified through billing statements — and arrive at a total number. The same goes for lost wages, making these determinations objective. That means, once you determine what counts in a category, arriving at the total is a relatively easy calculation. Pain and suffering damages are more complicated because it's subjective, with little external evidence for corroboration. That is, reasonable minds can differ about an appropriate calculation for pain and suffering. That makes it important to be able to justify what figures or guidelines you use for calculation. The jury and the other party need to be able to follow your logic.

How to Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages

Pain and suffering aren't something you can see, which is why total amounts for these damages can significantly vary. While a jury can look at your broken bones and other physical injuries, there's no way for the jury to experience how much it hurts. The subjective nature of pain and suffering damages is the reason why there isn't a universal method of application for them. That can make a pain and suffering calculation tricky. The most commonly used techniques for arriving at these damages are the multiplier method and the per diem method.

The Multiplier Method

To use the multiplier method, you add up your economic damages. These are your verifiable, out-of-pocket damages like medical bills and lost wages. Then, you apply a multiplier to arrive at the dollar amount of your pain and suffering. For example, consider a scenario where you have been hurt in a car crash. You determine that you have $10,000 in medical bills and $5,000 in lost wages, making your total economic damages $15,000. You decide that it's fair to use a multiplier of three to value your pain and suffering. $15,000 X 3 = $45,000. In this case, you can argue that you have $45,000 in pain and suffering damages.

The Per Diem Method

The per diem method of calculating pain and suffering damages attaches a value to each day that you suffer. After assigning this value to each day, you then multiply that value by the total number of days of suffering to arrive at your total pain and suffering damages. For example, consider that you have put a value for pain and suffering at $100 per day after sustaining injuries in a car accident. It takes you one year to recover from your injuries. In this case, your pain and suffering damages are 365 X $100 or $36,500.

What Multiplier or Daily Rate Do I Choose?

When deciding what multiplier or daily rate to select, you need to be able to show the jury your logic. The worse your injuries and damages are, the higher the multiplier or daily rate should be. For example, if your injuries are serious and require a long recovery, your multiplier might be higher. If you have scarring, immobility or prolonged weakness, you can justify a higher multiplier. Similarly, if the facts of the case are particularly traumatic, this is also a justification for a higher amount. This consideration can come into play if you're hurt by a drunk or reckless driver. A pain and suffering multiplier might be 1.5 on the low end up to approximately five on the high-end. A per diem amount can look at your daily lost wages as well as the severity of the accident. This rate might range from $100 to $200 per day or more. You might calculate your pain and suffering damages using both methods, and they're likely going to give you different amounts. These two numbers can serve as a jumping off point for your arguments to the jury.

Criticisms of Pain and Suffering Calculations

One of the largest criticisms of the methods to determine pain and suffering damages is that they both produce inconsistent results. Critics also say that the results are too hard to calculate predictably. One person might double compensatory damages to arrive at a pain and suffering amount. Another person might think it's fair to triple the same figure. Juries can find these calculations arbitrary, and it can be hard for them to determine which calculation is correct.

How Insurance Companies Try to Limit Your Damages

Some insurance companies try to use a complex calculation, often with the help of a software program, to justify a low damage award. In many cases, the insurance company can't explain their calculations, and they will only tell you what their software program says. You should be prepared to document your own calculations and reject an insurance company's attempt to confuse you with complex calculations or minimize your suffering.

How You Can Prove Your Case

To fight back against the insurance company, you need to be prepared to present evidence that shows the severity of your injuries and suffering. Photographs and detailed journal entries related to your recovery can help tell the story of your injuries. One of the biggest aspects of proving your case, especially when it comes to pain and suffering damages, is appropriate medical attention. It's crucial to get the medical care that you need to document your injuries. Insurers are more likely to accept a higher value for pain and suffering if it can be confirmed by a medical professional. If you have pain, it's important to tell your treating physicians, so that it's in your medical records.

Don't Forget Other Types of Damages

Sometimes in an effort to maximize pain and suffering damages, victims forget about all of the other types of compensation that may apply to their circumstances. Evaluating the claim for each category of possible damages is important. Don't overlook categories such as property damages, mental health treatment, and replacement services for household chores. These are all essential categories of damages in their own right, and they can also factor into a calculation of adequate pain and suffering compensation.

Getting Legal Help

Although these types of damages tend to be a confusing aspect of car accident cases, a Las Vegas personal injury attorney can help you value your pain and suffering and justify your valuation to the jury. Getting legal help can make the difference in getting the compensation you need to make a full recovery. The skilled Nevada personal injury lawyers at Bernstein & Poisson have the expertise to help you comprehensively value your pain and suffering damages. With over 50 combined years of experience, these qualified attorneys have a vast understanding of how the court typically treats these types of damages and can apply this knowledge to your case to get you the compensation you deserve. If you have sustained injuries after a car accident, and need help valuing your damages, contact Bernstein & Poisson at (702) 602-8869 to schedule your free consultation today.