An accident can cause more than just economic damage. It can also have a substantial effect on the physical, emotional, mental and psychological well-being of victims and witnesses. The civil courts have a legal remedy available for the noneconomic damage caused by a negligent party, called pain and suffering. Learning how an insurance company calculates pain and suffering damages can help you negotiate a fair settlement if you get hurt in an accident.

What Is Included in Pain and Suffering?

An important step in understanding how much your pain and suffering is worth to an insurance company is identifying all of the things that you have experienced that you can include on your claim. Pain and suffering is an umbrella phrase that can refer to a variety of noneconomic (intangible) damages connected to an accident and injury, including:

  • Physical pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Emotional suffering
  • Disfigurement or disability
  • Mental anguish or distress
  • Psychological harm
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Other mental health disorders
  • Inconvenience or frustration
  • Humiliation
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Lost enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

Someone who witnessed but was not physically injured in an accident could also qualify for pain and suffering damages in a personal injury lawsuit. If what the witness saw was traumatizing or distressing enough to cause emotional or psychological harm, the witness may be eligible for financial compensation. However, it is easier to achieve a settlement for pain and suffering if it is combined with physical injuries.

How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated in an Insurance Claim?

When calculating economic damages, such as medical bills and property repairs, an insurance company will add up the hard figures connected to the accident, such as a bill from a medical provider or an estimate of vehicle repairs from an auto shop. When determining pain and suffering damages, however, the insurance company must change its strategy. Most insurance companies use one of two methods:

  • The Multiplier Method. If the claimant’s injury will last for the foreseeable future, an insurance company may use the Multiplier Method to determine pain and suffering by multiplying the claimant’s total amount of economic damages by a number that best describes the severity of the injury. For example, if the insurance company calculates economic damages at $10,000 and decides on a multiplier of 3, the claimant can receive $30,000 in pain and suffering.
  • The Per Diem Method. If a doctor can estimate a claimant’s date of recovery, the Per Diem Method may be more appropriate, as it multiplies a daily value (usually close to the claimant’s daily wage) by the number of days that the claimant will foreseeably experience pain and suffering related to the injury.

There is no strict rule about how an insurance company must calculate pain and suffering damages. These equations are guidelines that may or may not be used by the insurer. Instead, it is up to the insurance company how much to offer a claimant. This is why it is important to bring a settlement offer to a personal injury attorney to make sure that it is adequate before accepting.

How to Prove Pain and Suffering

Unlike economic damages, pain and suffering is intangible. This means there is often a lack of hard evidence to support a pain and suffering claim. You might not have any medical records or bills proving that the accident gave you emotional trauma. If you can, see a psychologist or psychiatrist for an evaluation so that you have medical evidence of your pain and suffering. 

Keep an injury journal documenting how you feel, as well. Testimony from your friends and family members about how the accident impacted you can also help prove your intangible losses. A West Chester, PA personal injury attorney can assist you with proving pain and suffering, as well as negotiating with an insurance company for maximum financial compensation.