There are a lot of different damages suffered when we experience a personal injury. Say your personal injury was a car crash; there would be the damages to your car, your injuries, and the damages represented by your medical bills, in addition to any wages you lost due to being too injured to work.
All of these can be calculated with solid numbers. Some of them may be working off estimates, such as your average earnings over a period of time, but they are all tied to something that can be pointed at and easily understood. This isn’t the case with pain and suffering, each of which is intangible but entirely real.
Today we’re going to take a deeper look at how pain and suffering work in a personal injury case and how California calculates them. To begin, we’ll explore what pain and suffering mean in regard to personal injury cases. Then we’ll look at what is referred to as the pain and suffering multiplier to understand how we arrive at the number of damages to represent pain and suffering. Finally, we’ll examine how you prove your pain and suffering to a court.
How Does Pain and Suffering Work in Regards to a Personal Injury?
Most damages are called economic damages. These are damages that are clearly represented by a dollar amount. This makes them much easier to quantify. You can calculate how much is needed for repairs, medical bills, and missed wages fairly easily.
But there is another kind of damage called non-economic damages. This is the category of damages that pain and suffering fall under. You may hear specific non-economic damages referenced, such as loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life.
Loss of consortium refers to the loss of companionship, moral support, or intimacy. For example, your car accident leaves you paralyzed. There are the clear damages related to the injury itself, but the injury also causes a schism between you and your partner and a lack of intimacy. This is damage that you have suffered that is non-economic in nature but that still greatly impacts your life.
Loss of enjoyment of life is what it sounds like. Using that same example of being paralyzed, this could easily result in a loss of enjoyment of life. Say that in your spare time, you were a drummer. Always dreamed of being in a band, finally made it happen, and then you suffer a paralyzing injury that prevents you from playing your instrument. There is nothing economic about this, but it certainly impacts the enjoyment you get out of life.
In California, you are able to sue not just for economic damages but non-economic damages. But since non-economic damages are harder to calculate, it can be difficult to determine what you should ask for when seeking compensation. For that, we need to look at the pain and suffering multiplier to get a better sense of how these cases work in action.
What is a Pain and Suffering Multiplier?
While pain and suffering are both compensable damages to seek through a personal injury lawsuit, there is no standard way of determining how much a person’s pain and suffering should be worth. But one of the more common approaches is to use a pain and suffering multiplier.
To begin, you first calculate your economic damages. All those damages that have a dollar figure attached to them are added up to arrive at a total number. Then the total of your economic damages is multiplied by a number between one and five.
The multiplier used is determined by the severity of your injuries. If you suffered minor injuries, then you may only multiply the total by one or two. But a case that saw severe injuries such as paralysis would use a multiplier of four or five. So the total number of economic damages would be multiplied by the chosen number to arrive at the amount of damages you seek.
There is also the pier diem method, in which a dollar amount is calculated for each day that you experience pain and suffering. This is a harder method to use as it requires more calculation, and it often fails to account for the fact that pain and suffering can be hard to determine in this method.
How is Pain and Suffering Proven?
Pain and suffering may be intangible, but it still falls upon the plaintiff in a personal injury case to prove their experience. After all, anybody could say that they are experiencing pain and suffering, but that doesn’t mean that they actually are. This may help to deter bogus lawsuits, but it can also make it harder for those who are legitimately experiencing pain and suffering to get the compensation they rightly deserve.
But while there is no economic value to pain and suffering, there can be many ways to demonstrate that you are experiencing it. Evidence that could help to prove your pain and suffering includes (but is not limited to):
- X-rays of injuries
- Medical records that show how much treatment was needed and what type of pain medications are being used
- Notes from doctors or therapists
- Videos that show your activity level and the difference between before and after the accident
- Testimony of friends, coworkers, family members, church members, and anybody else that has seen the way your pain and suffering have negatively impacted your life
- Testimony from medical professionals about what you are experiencing and what those with similar injuries experience
- Social media posts
How Can I Get Compensation for My Pain and Suffering?
If you are looking to seek compensation for your pain and suffering, then the best thing to do is to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you to determine how much to ask for, what evidence you should collect, and more. With knowledge of previous personal injury cases, an experienced attorney will be equipped to look at the unique circumstances of your case to determine the best course of action in putting together a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for the damages you suffered, both economic and non-economic.