After being involved in an accident that someone else caused, whether a car accident, medical malpractice injury, or any other situation where someone else caused your injuries due to their own negligence, recklessness, or malice, you are entitled to a range of damages that go beyond the purely financial. These can often include something referred to in personal injury as “pain and suffering,” a subcategory of compensatory damages known as “non-economic damages,” meaning that these impacts do not have set dollar values associated with them.
Trying to reach a financial figure for the pain and suffering you have endured can be extremely difficult, and without experience negotiating personal injury settlements, it can feel nearly impossible to defend your calculations against the insurance company or a team of defense attorneys. This is just one of the many benefits of working with a team of experienced attorneys like those at Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss, LLC after a personal injury in order to get the money you rightfully deserve.
What Does “Pain and Suffering” Really Mean?
The term “pain and suffering” encompasses a wide range of issues that a victim is likely to endure following an accident and can apply to both physical and emotional pain.
Physical Pain and Suffering
A broken leg, for instance, is a significant disruption to your life and is extremely painful beginning from the moment that the injury occurs. From there, you will need to endure ongoing pain from the recovery process, including the treatment as it is reset and put into a cast and the aches and pains that come with the entire healing phase. Anyone who has ever suffered a serious injury knows that there is often lasting, and sometimes permanent, pain or discomfort, even after the injury fully heals. This pain is another important factor when your attorney will be working on calculating the full extent of your pain and suffering.
This is just a limited set of examples that constitute physical pain, all of which causes you to suffer — in this instance, unnecessarily, because someone else caused the accident and is therefore at fault for your injuries.
Emotional Pain and Suffering
The additional, and often more pervasive, aspect of pain and suffering is the emotional impact of an injury, beginning with the shock and terror of experiencing the injury itself, as well as the ongoing suffering you must endure as a result of the impact the injury has on your life. When you are unable to live your life as you did before your injury, this can lead to depression, anxiety, and other emotional turmoil that would have been avoided had the at-fault party not caused your injuries.
In addition, the trauma of experiencing an injury has significant impacts on a victim. After the initial shock of an accident, realizing that you have suffered a serious injury is extremely shocking, and this shock can have a lasting effect on your mental health.
Assigning a Dollar Value to Pain and Suffering
Recognizing that you have endured pain and suffering as a result of someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior is a start, but when can you do with this information? Pain and suffering is known as a “non-economic damage,” meaning that it is a measurable impact of your accident but does not have a market value associated with it. Insurance companies have a difficult time pushing back on paying for a medical bill or an invoice from the mechanic repairing your vehicle, but there is lots of room for interpretation — and therefore lots of room to fight back — with something like pain and suffering. Remember that an insurer’s focus is to pay you as little as possible while still fully settling your case, so they will aggressively work to reduce the amount that you receive for abstract, nebulous, or uncertain damages like this one.
Fortunately, your personal injury lawyer at Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss, LLC has years of experience with both calculating and negotiating settlement amounts for non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, and will be able to handle this entire process for you while you stay focused on making a recovery. There are a number of methods that an attorney can use in order to calculate non-economic damages, and they will choose the most appropriate method for your case in order to get you the most amount of money possible. Below are just two of the most common calculation methods used to reach a dollar value for a damage like pain and suffering:
The multiplier method first requires that your economic damage amount is finalized before assigning a dollar value to your non-economic damages. The multiplier in this calculation is a number that indicates the severity of your non-economic damages (or a specific non-economic damage), and is then applied to the total amount of your economic damages. For example, a multiplier of 3x and total economic damages of $100,000 will amount to 3 x $100,000 = $300,000 in non-economic damages.
It is important to work with an attorney who understands the importance of reaching a reasonable but aggressive multiplier in order to get you the money you deserve without approaching negotiations with a completely unreasonable number. If negotiations start with a figure that defies standard calculations, it is reasonable to expect that the insurer will be unwilling to have a productive conversation, and could either stall or ruin negotiation talks from the start. The same is true if your attorney needs to file a lawsuit in the Florida courts — if a judge sees that the amount you are requesting in damages is completely off-base, it may tilt the case in the defendant’s favor.
Per Diem Method
The other common method of calculating non-economic damages is by using the per diem calculation, or “daily rate.” This method can be easier to approach in instances where there is a limited time that you are enduring the pain and suffering but quickly complicates when you are trying to factor in long-term or permanent injuries that will cause constant pain and suffering.
The per diem method will assign a daily rate, typically based on your average daily income, and will multiply that rate by the number of days you dealt with pain and suffering. For example: if you make $45,000 a year and experienced pain and suffering from whiplash for half of a year, then the per diem method would seek $22,500 in non-economic damages for the pain and suffering of said whiplash. Keep in mind, however, that pain and suffering is only one of a number of non-economic damages that an attorney will seek compensation for, meaning that this daily rate may fluctuate based on the quantity and intensity of your non-economic damages.
Are There Limits To The Amount You Can Sue For With Pain And Suffering?
There is no limit to the amount that a victim can seek for non-economic damage (the exception being for certain medical malpractice cases), but this does not mean that a victim can simply throw out an enormous figure and expect their claim to be taken seriously because of the lack of limits. Each calculation that you or your attorney submit for both economic and non-economic damages must be backed by proof and/or a strong justification for your claims.
This is why using established calculation methods such as the per diem or multiplier method is so important to your case. If you approach the insurer or defendant with an unreasonable request, they may force the case to court in the hopes that a judge will dismiss it because you are exaggerating your injuries (since the extent of your injuries is the basis of your non-economic damage calculations).
The short answer is that in most cases, you will not run into a damage cap; however, this does not give carte blanche for making unreasonable requests from the defendant in regards to compensation.
How To Get the Compensation You Deserve For Your Pain and Suffering
The reality is that the best way to get the money you are entitled to after an accident or injury that someone else caused is by working with an experienced personal injury attorney. Going up against an insurance company or a team of defense lawyers is a difficult task for someone without comprehensive legal experience and a history of handling these types of cases — especially while you are trying to recover from your injuries and dealing with the ongoing distractions of pain and suffering.
The team at Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss offers a free consultation for personal injury victims to discuss the specifics of your situation and give you a better sense of how you can move forward with your case. Contact us as soon as possible to get started with our award-winning team today.