What Is Considered Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident?

If you are injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver, you are legally entitled to file a personal injury claim in compensation for your damages.

Pain and suffering can be included in your claim as non-economic damages. This class of damages is not as easy to quantify as lost earnings or medical bills – these are known as economic damages.

Damages for pain and suffering are categorized as physical and mental. Physical pain and suffering is the pain triggered by your injuries, while mental pain and suffering is often caused by the knock-on effects of physical injuries.

Table of Contents

    Pain and Suffering: Physical

    Some injuries sustained in car accidents caused by the negligence of another driver are more than painful. Some injuries leave you with permanent damage, and others can bring about chronic pain lasting for months, sometimes even years.

    The following physical medical conditions can qualify for compensation under the pain and suffering component of non-economic damages in your claim:

    • Headaches
    • Dislocated joints
    • Pulled or sprained muscles
    • Broken bones
    • Fractured bones
    • Back pain
    • Neck pain
    • Traumatic brain injury
    • Nerve damage
    • Internal organ damage
    • Paralysis

    Some of the above medical conditions cause lasting pain and suffering, in some cases leaving victims with constant physical pain.

    Pain and Suffering: Emotional

    The emotional component of pain and suffering is a byproduct of the physical injuries caused by the accident.

    The following are all considered mental or emotional pain and suffering:

    • Emotional distress
    • Mental anguish
    • Anxiety
    • Humiliation
    • Shock
    • Fear
    • Anger
    • Loss of enjoyment of life
    • Lack of energy
    • Loss of appetite
    • Mood swings
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • Disrupted sleep patterns
    • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

    Essentially, any negative emotions triggered by the physical trauma and pain of the accident and the injuries you sustain can be classified as emotional pain and suffering.

    As with physical pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering accounts for the emotional pain and suffering already endured as well as likely future emotional pain and suffering.

    Loss of Consortium

    In some unfortunate cases, personal injury accidents are fatal. In such cases, the family of the deceased file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their loved one. This claim holds the negligent party accountable and seeks compensation for:

    Loss of consortium

    Medical bills

    Lost earnings of the deceased

    Loss of consortium is a specific type of pain and suffering experienced by the close family members of a victim killed in an auto accident.

    The grief and mental anguish felt by remaining family members as they grieve their lost loved one after this preventable accident can lead to special awards for pain and suffering. These include damages for the loss of:

    • Companionship
    • Spousal intimacy
    • Care
    • Love and affection
    • Parental guidance
    • Household services

    Loss of consortium brings about a range of highly specific difficulties, so you may qualify for additional damages in this area of pain and suffering, depending on your family circumstances.

    How is Pain and Suffering Calculated?

    All personal injury cases are unique, so calculations for the pain and suffering component of a claim will vary according to the circumstances and facts of each case. Having said that, there are two methods commonly employed for calculating pain and suffering after a car wreck:

    • Multiplier method
    • Per diem method

    Multiplier Method

    The multiplier method involves first calculating the actual damages – medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering – and then multiplying that number by a pain and suffering rating. This multiplier is typically from 1 to 5, depending on the severity of injuries.

    Per Diem Method

    The alternative approach – the per diem method – involves a specific dollar amount being assigned to each day from the day of the accident until the victim achieves MMR (maximum medical recovery). MMR occurs when a medical professional no longer expects further improvement in the victim’s condition.

    Insurance may use either of these methods, a combination of these methods, or different methods to calculate pain and suffering. There is no boilerplate method universally applied.

    Proving Pain and Suffering

    To establish pain and suffering, whether physical or emotional, you’ll require evidence and documentation. This may include:

    • Medical evidence
    • Doctor’s notes
    • Notes from mental health counselor or therapist
    • Personal journals documenting pain
    • Photographs
    • Videos

    The more evidence you provide, the more clearly the insurer, judge, and jury can see the adverse impact of the accident on your life through increased pain and suffering.

    Even though you may feel able to gather much of this evidence yourself, it is worth consulting an experienced personal accident injury attorney to help you maximize the compensation you receive for the injuries you sustained, along with any pain and suffering.

    How Insurance Companies Calculate Pain and Suffering

    Insurance companies use a variety of methods when calculating pain and suffering in personal injury claims.

    With the multiplier method, injuries are rated on a scale of 1 through 5, with 5 being the most severe. As an example, a broken arm might rate as 3 on the scale. Using the multiplier method for injuries totaling $15,000 would entitle you to damages of $45,000.

    If you sustain severe and longer-term injuries in a car accident, the per diem method assigns a dollar amount – $100, for instance – to each day between the accident and the victim attaining MMR. This can be more beneficial to you.

    Insurance companies are not obliged to use either of these methods when calculating pain and suffering, though. Many insurers use computer programs and algorithms to calculate the percentage of a settlement offer allotted for pain and suffering. These methods typically account not only for the type of injury, but also for the type of medical treatment obtained by the claimant.

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