When you are involved in an accident and are injured because of the negligence of someone else, you are entitled to be compensated for your damages. The damages you suffer may be associated with different types of injuries.
Some injuries or damages are easily valued. If someone is negligent and destroys your $100 bicycle, your damages are $100. If someone negligently hits a ball through your window, your damages are the cost of the window.
However, some injuries are more difficult to put a value on. For example, if someone negligently breaks your arm, what should you be compensated for your broken arm? Some broken-arm injuries may be more serious than others or may take more time to heal. But the medical expenses for each broken arm can be calculated. Insurance companies and courts have ways to put a fair value on similar injuries, so these kinds of damages can be calculated relatively fairly.
However, pain and suffering damages are even more difficult to value because everyone experiences pain and suffering differently. Each individual’s pain and suffering experienced from a broken arm can be different. So, what exactly are pain and suffering damages, and how can they be valued?
Different Types of Damages
There are different kinds of damages for which you can be compensated. Each type of damage is valued differently based on the injury that you suffered.
- Special damages. Special damages are damages that can be calculated with a definite value. They are also known as “economic damages.” These damages are measured by the amount of money you have to spend because of the accident. This can include money you have already spent and money that you may have to spend in the future. These can include:
- Property damage to your car
- Damage to other personal property
- Ambulance bill
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages or lost income
- General damages. General damages are considered non-economic damages. These are damages that are not necessarily measurable with any formula or demonstrated on any receipt. These damages are more intangible and more difficult to show because everyone experiences injuries differently.
- A broken arm may be extremely painful for one person but not for another.
- One person may be self-conscious about a scar on their face, whereas another person may not.
- The same type of injury might keep one person from being able to return to work but not another.
- One person may need counseling or therapy to cope with their injury or accident, but another victim of the accident may not suffer any emotional trauma from the accident.
With general damages, even though each of the injuries may be similar, the values for each victim may be very different. General damages also can include “pain and suffering.”
Pain and Suffering
Part of what you may be compensated for after an accident is the pain and suffering that you had to endure as a result of your injuries. Pain and suffering can include any of the following:
- Physical aches and pains caused by your accident
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disturbances
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
All of these may be valued by what the victim has already experienced as well as what the victim is expected to experience in the future. However, because you cannot present to the court or a claims adjuster a bill or a receipt for pain and suffering like you can for an arm cast, the value of your pain and suffering must be proven with medical or expert testimony.
How to Calculate Pain and Suffering
General damages like pain and suffering are calculated differently than special damages. Because pain and suffering cannot be valued precisely for every person, the value of your pain and suffering must be based on the nature and severity of the injury that you suffered. Therefore, you must be able to describe your pain and suffering in a way that compares to the pain and suffering of others who have already been compensated for similar injuries.
Lawyers and insurance adjusters often estimate general damages for pain and suffering by using a multiplier system. Using this system, you multiply the total amount of your “special” damages (the damages that can be precisely valued) by a factor ranging from 1.5 to 5. This factor is based on the severity of your injuries. Therefore, special damages might be multiplied according to the following factors, based on the nature and extent of the accompanying injuries:
- 1.5 – 2.0 Mild to moderately severe injuries
- 2.1 – 3.0 More severe or painful injuries
- 3.1 – 4.0 Persistent or long-term injuries
- 4.1 – 5.0 Severe and permanent injuries
The total of your specific damages multiplied by a factor associated with the nature and severity of your injuries gives you an estimated value for your general damages or pain and suffering.
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