How to Calculate Pain & Suffering

By Lisa R. House
A gavel and stethoscope on a table.

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When injured by the negligence of another, you are entitled to monetary damages, known as compensatory damages, for your loss. Compensatory damages include both special and general damages. Out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage are known as special damages. "Pain and suffering" falls under the category of general damages. No precise dollar amount exists for general damages; thus, a value must be calculated to cover your physical and mental pain and suffering.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are designed to put you back in the position you were in prior to being injured. They represent the loss you experienced as a result of an injury. Physical injury is measured by medical treatment, lost wages, and property damage. All of these damages are added up and the total represents the amount of special damages or "specials" that you are entitled to. Generally speaking, when special damages apply to a case, general damages also apply.

Examples of Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering includes present pain and suffering, and the physical and mental discomfort you are likely to suffer in the future. Physical pain and suffering is the pain associated with your actual physical injuries. Mental pain and suffering results from your physical injuries and includes afflictions such as fright, nervousness, grief, anxiety, shock, terror, depression and humiliation. It also includes the mental impact that disfigurement, deformity, or impairment of your ability to work has upon you.

Calculating General Damages

Although a formula involving a "multiplier" is sometimes used to calculate pain-and-suffering damages in personal injury cases, no standard guidelines exist to measure these damages. Moreover, even formula-based damage amounts can vary according to the circumstances of particular cases. Credibility, reasonableness of the claims, severity of the injury, and medical records are some of the variables considered in determining general damages.

Insurance Company Methods

Insurance companies use a multiplier to represent the amount of pain and suffering you experienced and are likely to continue to experience as a result of an injury. The multiplier usually ranges from 1.5 to 5 depending on the severity of the injury or injuries. The special damages are totaled and then multiplied by the multiplier, meaning that your pain and suffering is compensated at 1.5 to 5 times the value of your special damages. This method, however, does not take into account that people experience injuries differently. Different insurance companies may use different multipliers even for similar injuries.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Lisa R. House has been actively involved in the health and fitness industry for more than 20 years. She is a Tough Mudder Finisher, triathlete, ballroom dancer and former fitness competitor. Her certifications include Zumba and NASM. She holds a Master of Science in nursing from The Ohio State University and a Juris Doctorate from Capital University Law School.

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