If you’ve experienced injury in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, then you’ll want to seek out a settlement to cover your medical expenses and associated costs. You’ll do this either through an auto accident injury claim negotiated with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or through a personal injury court case. Car accident settlements are valued based on a variety of factors, including the severity of your injuries, whether you lost wages as a result of the injuries and what kind of medical attention you sought for your injuries. But one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of car accident compensation is less straightforward: pain and suffering. Here’s what you need to know:
The Basis of Pain and Suffering Damages
The threshold at which you can collect pain and suffering damages depends on where you live. In some states, simply having experienced pain is enough (and if you’ve experienced injury, you probably have also experienced pain). Not only physical pain, but also emotional distress, is covered. But in other states, you need to prove that you’ve suffered one of the following three types of injuries: death, permanent and serious disfigurement, or serious impairment of body function. The first is self-explanatory (and relates to wrongful death suits); the second encompasses loss of body parts, scarring, burns or any injury that changes the victim’s appearance; and the third refers to an injury that prevents the victim from living his or her normal life.
It’s important to note that even these determinations may be subjective. For people in most professions, a broken finger would not impede normal life. But a concert cellist could easily argue that a broken finger should be considered an important body function.
Calculating Pain and Suffering Awards
There’s no single accepted method by which pain and suffering damages are calculated; that’s one reason why it’s important to consult with accident injury attorneys before accepting what could be a lowball settlement from the insurance company. However, there are two ways you can estimate the value of pain and suffering to determine if an offer is in the right ballpark.
The first route is to take the amount of what are called “economic damages” — medical bills and lost wages — and multiply them by a factor of 1 to 5, depending on the severity of your injury. So if economic damages totaled $10,000 and you had a severe injury that required a prolonged recovery, you might multiply by 4 and come up with $40,000 as a starting point for damages. The second method involves applying a “per diem” amount based on recovery time: for example, $100 for every day between the accident and when you reached your maximum recovery level.
What further questions would you like to ask experienced injury attorneys about pain and suffering awards? Discuss in the comments.