How to Calcualte Pain and Suffering
How to calculate pain and suffering? This is a difficult and controversial issue. When you are in a car accident, the insurance company wants to get a written document that releases any and all claims against the person that caused your damages and injuries. To get that release, the insurance adjuster must compensate you adequately.
You are entitled to special damages (medical bills, wage loss, medicine, etc.) and general damages (pain and suffering, loss of consortium, physiological injuries, etc.) Most of the time, calculating the Special Damages is not very difficult and there is not much debate over the value of the medical bills, wage loss, and other medical expenses. You can add them all up and submit your receipts. However, calculating general damages, which includes pain and suffering, can be very difficult.
How much is your headache worth? Depends who you ask. If you ask the insurance adjuster, she will tell you about $5. If I ask you, then it is probably worth much more than that.
Personal injury attorneys use the medical bills or all "special damages" as a way to calculate general damages. Some multiply the medical bills by two, other by three or even four times (depends in your jurisdiction). This is only a rule of thumb. The insurance adjuster will fight you and will tell you that that is not an accurate way to calculate pain and suffering. There are no laws that will give you a formula to calculate the value of the injury.
Simply multiplying your medical bills will not yield an accurate number. You could have an injury with medical bills of $2,000 but the pain and suffering be worth much more than three or even four times that value. For example, a fifteen year old girl that suffers a cut in her face, leaving a scar from her eye to her chin. Medical bills for stitches and cleaning the wound might not be very much, but the psychological injury of growing up with such injury could be worth much more.
Multiplying the medical bills is not very accurate when assessing the value of pain and suffering, however it can guide you. Remember that there are many more claim than just "pain and suffering" in a car accident. You can ask for loss of consortium, loss of earning capacity, loss of quality of life, etc. For a detailed list and explanation of each type of claim, visit
http://www.auto-insurance-claim-advice.com/bodily-injury-claim.html. All of these claims can add to a lot of money. Most people forget to ask for any of those types of damages. Insurance companies do not explain the process and they just want a release for any and all claims, including all those damages you forgot or did know to ask for. Insurance companies do this on purpose. Be aware.
Insurance adjusters are ready to tell you that the value of the injury is separated from the accident itself. They are trained to argue that they are settling for the neck pain, not the fact that the total loss settlement was low. They try to narrow the scope of the settlement. For example, they will tell you that the fact that the driver that hit was drunk is not accounted for because they are looking at pain and suffering. Your pain will not be more or less because someone else was drunk. If you were hit at the same speed and the same conditions by a sober person, your pain and suffering would be the same (same impact, same injury).
The insurance adjuster would be correct; the pain would be the same. But remember that what the insurance company is doing is "buying your lawsuit". Would the fact that a driver hit you while intoxicated increase the value a jury would award you? I think the answer is probably yes.
To get the most out for your pain and suffering, use the value of your medical bills, the circumstances surrounding the accident, the type of injury, similar cases jury awards, and all the bodily injury claims you can make. Double check every argument the insurance adjuster is making. Make sure you are getting a fair treatment.
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In our next issue, we will cover how lawyers evaluate claims and how they give value to "pain". Our next issue will be delivered on or about Sept 20th.
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