Unfortunately, accident injury lawsuits aren’t always as straightforward as late-night commercials for auto accident law firms can make them seem. In particular, there are many misconceptions regarding car accident settlements and what should be expected in terms of pain and suffering damages. Part of this confusion has to do with the fact that laws regarding car accident compensation vary from state to state, so there’s no universal standard as to who can invoke pain and suffering as part of a car accident or trucking accident claim or lawsuit. And to further muddy the waters, there’s no set method by which a dollar amount is assigned to pain and suffering damages. Here’s some information that can help you make a bit more sense of the process:
The Multiplier Method
One of the most common ways attorneys estimate pain and suffering damages for an accident injury lawsuit is to start with what are called the economic damages. Generally, these comprise actual medical bills and lost wages (if you can’t work during your recovery period). The lawyer then multiplies this amount by a number between one and five, based on the severity of your injuries, to come up with a figure for pain and suffering. So if your economic damages were $12,000 dollars and the injury was very severe, your lawyer might multiply that by four and recommend you seek $48,000 as part of your settlement.
It’s important to remember, however, that this is generally considered a starting point; there’s no law that requires the insurance company to pay that amount, and ultimately the only way to force payment is to file a lawsuit and convince the court that your request is fair. Because litigation can be expensive and take a long time, some victims prefer to negotiate a slightly smaller settlement and avoid court altogether. Ultimately, it’s a decision you should discuss with your lawyer based on the details of your case.
Determining the Multiplier
It’s easy to assume that any pain — a broken leg, for example — justifies a high multiplier. But there are more factors that are generally taken into consideration. Here are some situations that might be used to support the selection of a higher multiplier:
- The other party was completely at fault for the accident
- Your injuries are clearly proven through mainstream medical tests
- Your injuries are severe enough to seek medical treatment (as opposed to, for example, acupuncture or chiropractic care)
- Your recovery takes a prolonged period (six months is often seen as an important threshold)
- You have some permanent complications from the injuries (scarring, chronic pain, impaired mobility, etc.)
If none of these factors apply, then you should not expect a high multiplier. If several factors apply, you might be justified in applying a four or five. If all apply, you might even be justified in going outside the normal range and applying a multiplier higher than five.
What other questions do you have about how pain and suffering damages are calculated in the context of an accident injury lawsuit? Discuss in the comments.