A car accident in Utah or other personal injury accident, including a slip and fall accident, can result in substantial financial damages. However, accident victims also experience pain and suffering damages after an injury. Calculating pain and suffering damages can be difficult. A personal injury lawyer understands how to calculate these damages to maximize your pain and suffering compensation.
10 Factors Taken into Account When Calculating Pain and Suffering
- The type and severity of the injuries
- The length of the recovery period
- The total of a victim’s out-of-pocket expenses or economic losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages
- Whether the person sustained a permanent impairment or disability
- Whether the person sustained scarring or disfigurement
- The death of another person in the vehicle
- Whether a jury assigned any fault for the auto accident to the victim
- How the injuries have impacted a victim’s daily life and work
- Whether the victim may have future damages, such as ongoing medical care, personal care, or loss of income
- The availability and amount of liability insurance that covers the accident victim’s damages
What Does Pain and Suffering Cover?
A pain and suffering settlement is intended to compensate an accident victim, such as from a car crash or a slip and fall accident. The accident victim receives compensation for the physical and mental anguish caused by an injury. The term “pain and suffering” is often referred to as “non-economic damages.” The terms “general damages” or “compensatory damages” may also be used to refer to pain and suffering damages.
What is considered pain and suffering in a lawsuit or personal injury claim?
Examples of pain and suffering from a car accident include:
- Mental pain and anguish
- Emotional trauma, such as anxiety, fear, and depression
- Physical pain and suffering because of bodily injury
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Emotional pain and distress from scarring and disfigurement
- Permanent disabilities and impairments
- Loss of companionship (loss of consortium)
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Injury to reputation and humiliation
What is pain and suffering worth in a personal injury case?
Putting a value on your pain and suffering after a car accident in Utah is extremely difficult. It can help to have an objective person who has experience calculating the value of car accident pain and suffering claims review your case. A car accident lawyer understands the difference between general and special damages and how to maximize the value of all damages in a personal injury case.
General vs Special Damages
What is the difference between special and general damages?
General damages and special damages are both forms of compensatory damages in a personal injury case. Compensatory damages are paid to an accident victim by the party who caused the injuries or the party’s insurance company. The reason for compensatory damages is to compensate the injured party for economic losses and non-economic losses. Even though money cannot relieve pain and suffering, personal injury settlements can help pay for continued mental health treatment, ongoing medical expenses, and living expenses.
General damages are your pain and suffering damages. They include damages related to physical and mental suffering, as discussed above.
Special damages are out-of-pocket expenses and other financial losses related to the accident, your injury, and your recovery. Examples of special damages include:
- Medical bills and health care costs, including physical therapy, surgery, doctor’s bills, hospital bills, and diagnostic tests
- Medications and medical equipment
- Loss of income, including commissions, wages, benefits, salaries, and self-employed income
- Damage to property, including vehicles and personal property
- Other financial losses incurred because of the accident
- Loss of earning capacity or earning potential
- Child care expenses and cost of domestic help
- Home modifications because of a permanent impairment
- Future lost wages, medical care, and personal care
How much do you get paid for pain and suffering?
Special damages are easier to calculate because we have evidence of the actual financial losses and costs, such as medical bills, invoices, receipts, and payroll histories. However, general damages are subjective. You cannot base one person’s pain and suffering on another person’s experience, even when both individuals have similar injuries.
Other factors that might impact a person’s experience following an auto accident include the person’s health, previous injuries, mental health condition, and emotional state. Therefore, an insurance company or jury must treat each auto accident claim as unique.
What is pain and suffering worth in a personal injury case?
Because general damages do not have a “bill” or “invoice” to determine the value, a personal injury lawyer or insurance company may base the value of pain and suffering damages on the amount of financial losses. However, this method may or may not be in the best interest of accident victims.
Is pain and suffering considered punitive damages?
No, general damages and punitive damages are different from each other. Punitive damages are a specific type of damage only available in certain cases. An award for punitive damages “punishes” the person responsible for causing the injury of another person for grossly negligent behavior or willful, wanton, and reckless disregard for another person’s safety. Punitive damages are not very common in car accident claims.
How to Calculate Pain and Suffering in Utah
How much pain and suffering compensation should I receive?
You may find references to a pain and suffering calculator on some websites. However, these calculators are more than likely just versions of one of the common methods for calculating pain and suffering damages. The two most common ways used to calculate a pain and suffering settlement are the Multiplier Method and the Per Diem Method.
The Multiplier Method
The Multiplier Method of calculating pain and suffering damages uses a specific number as the multiplier to calculate the value for general damages based on special damages. In many cases, a multiplier of two or three is used to determine the amount to claim for pain and suffering.
For instance, if your total damages from a car crash is $50,000, your pain and suffering would be $100,000 if you use a multiplier of two ($50,000 x 2).
The Per Diem Method
The second method for calculating non-economic damages is the Per Diem Method. Pain and suffering damages are calculated by placing a dollar value on each day the person suffers because of a car accident. Some personal injury lawyers and insurance companies use a person’s wages before the accident to calculate a per diem rate.
The number of days multiplied by the daily value totals the pain and suffering compensation you include in your demand for a personal injury settlement. For instance, if the per diem is $100 per day and it takes you 100 days to recover, your pain and suffering compensation would be $10,000.
Which method will be used to calculate your pain and suffering damages?
Most insurance companies in Utah use the Multiplier Method to calculate pain and suffering compensation. The severity of the person’s injuries typically determines the multiplier used in the case. Most cases involve a multiplier somewhere between 1.5 and 5. An injury victim who required multiple surgeries because of an injury will likely have a higher multiplier than a person who suffered minor injuries that healed without surgery in a few months. Likewise, a person who sustained a permanent impairment or disability because of an auto accident may have a multiplier closer to 4 or 5.
Do law firms and insurance companies determine pain and suffering the same way?
Determining an amount to demand for pain and suffering damages can be challenging since pain and suffering are subjective. Because Utah’s personal injury laws do not dictate a specific formula or method for calculating pain and suffering claims, insurance companies and injury lawyers may use one of many different methods for reaching a pain and suffering settlement. However, the pain and suffering multiplier method is typically the most popular way to calculate general damages.
Do I Qualify for Pain and Suffering Compensation?
Because Utah is a no-fault insurance state, the first hurdle you must clear before you can qualify for pain and suffering damages is the no-fault insurance threshold. You cannot file a claim or lawsuit against the driver responsible for the car crash until you exceed this threshold. In a no-fault insurance state, you file an injury claim against your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage first. PIP benefits are available immediately, regardless of who caused the car accident. However, PIP does not compensate auto accident victims for general damages.
When does an insurance company compensate for pain and suffering?
The no-fault minimum threshold to file a pain and suffering claim is $3,000 in medical bills. Your medical bills must exceed $3,000 to file a claim for general damages. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Injury claims involving wrongful death, permanent disability, or disfigurement are not subject to the $3,000 threshold. However, in most cases, the medical expenses related to accidents involving death or traumatic injury quickly exceed the $3,000 threshold.
What documentation do I need to prove pain and suffering?
Because general damages pertain to physical pain, bodily injuries, mental pain, and emotional trauma, you do not have a bill or invoice to present to the insurance company. Therefore, you must rely on other evidence to prove how much you suffered after an accident. In most cases, hiring a personal injury lawyer can help increase the amount you receive for pain and suffering damages. An injury attorney understands the type of documentation and evidence an insurance adjuster needs to negotiate a fair settlement for general damages.
How can an attorney increase the amount awarded for pain and suffering?
Your personal injury lawyer helps you gather evidence to prove pain and suffering damages. An attorney may direct you to keep a detailed pain and suffering journal. Your journal contains information including:
- Your daily pain levels
- The challenges you face because of your injury
- Your struggle to perform basic tasks to care for yourself and your family
- How your injury impacts your relationships with family and friends, including your ability to care for your children or engage in sexual relations with your spouse
- Events you miss because you are injured
- Photographs of your injuries during your recovery period
- Feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression
- Other details that demonstrate how your accident injuries have impacted your life
Evidence an attorney may use to increase pain and suffering compensation include:
- Medical records to demonstrate the severity of your injury
- Expert medical testimony to describe how an injury like yours can result in chronic pain and limitations
- Personal testimony from you, your family members, and friends
- Photographs and videos of your injury
- A video depicting the challenges you face each day because of your injuries
Do I need to hire a car accident lawyer, or can I handle the case myself?
Victims of a car or motorcycle accident in Utah are not required to hire an injury lawyer to handle their case, though it is highly recommended. An insurance adjuster does not represent your best interest. The insurance adjuster protects the insurance company. Most individuals find that it is best to consult a personal injury lawyer to ensure they are receiving the maximum compensation for their injuries. Furthermore, an injury lawyer protects victims from the unfair insurance tactics used by some adjusters to unfairly lower the value of an auto accident claim or deny a valid injury claim.
While some people choose to handle their claim if it involves a minor car accident, it is usually best to seek the advice of an experienced car accident lawyer, especially if your claim involves:
- Serious or traumatic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, amputations, or paralysis
- Permanent impairments or disabilities
- Loss of a family member (wrongful death claim)
- A government entity, agency, or employee is a party
- Comparative fault allegations (the other party is claiming you caused or partially caused the crash)
Are You Ready to File a Personal Injury Claim for Pain and Suffering Damages?
Now that you have a better understanding of pain and suffering damages, are you ready to file an injury claim? The legal team of the Acadia Law Group can help you seek the compensation you deserve after being injured in a car crash. Call 1-800-653-4600 to schedule a free consultation for a free case evaluation.