How Pain and Suffering Compensation is Calculated

And The Overall Effect This Could Have On Your Personal Injury Case

Woman experiencing pain and suffering after an accident.

Before you head down a Google-search rabbit hole of unrealistic expectations for the amount of compensation you or a loved one could be awarded for pain and suffering resulting from an accident, you should know that there is no crystal ball to be found on the internet that can magically foretell the riches that await you. The fact is there are many variables to consider in each and every pain and suffering case in order to accurately determine the maximum compensation an individual could receive. When it comes to pain and suffering every case is different.

Like Attorney Andrew Helland does in the video below, this article will walk you through some of the variables that an experienced lawyer is likely to consider in order to maximize your compensation in a pain and suffering case. This article will also answer any burning questions you may have such as “How is compensation calculated for pain and suffering?” or “How much money can you sue for pain and suffering?” It will guide you through some of the steps in quantifying emotional distress damages and present you with common pain and suffering multiplier examples to give you a greater understanding of how awards for these cases are actually calculated.

Pain and Suffering Calculator | A Legal Newbie & a Lawyer

Under What Circumstances Can You Expect Compensation for Pain and Suffering?

You or a loved one may be entitled to compensation if, as a result of an accident, you are experiencing pain, suffering, or emotional distress. This might include but is not limited to:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Developing an anxiety disorder
  • Inability to work or perform routine errands
  • Pain
  • Loss of consortium
  • Scarring/disfigurement

Emotional distress can be considered the invisible price tag or the toll the accident has taken on your daily life. Things like mood swings or depression are not necessarily going to be itemized on a bill to hand over to an insurance company. Why do attorneys go beyond the physical injury? To seek compensation for any emotional and physical distress that their client experiences in the aftermath of an accident. 

How to Quantify Emotional Distress Damages

There are two primary kinds of damages that are commonly alleged in personal injury lawsuits. Special damages and general damages, each of which are quantified in different ways.

Special Damages include:

  • Medical bills
  • Loss of vehicle
  • Time loss/loss of income

Quantifying special damages is fairly straightforward. If you have a pile of medical bills resulting from a car accident injury, you can file a lawsuit in order to be compensated to pay off those bills. In Washington state, car insurance companies are required by law to offer drivers Personal Injury Protection or PIP. If you choose to buy the minimum PIP policy it will cover up to $10,000 in medical expenses resulting from a car accident. But what are you supposed to do if you receive a bill for a lengthy hospital stay that’s well over $100,000? Get in touch with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

General Damages include:

  • Pain and Suffering
  • Emotional Distress

General damages are harder to quantify than special damages. We go into this in more detail on article we wrote about typical pain and suffering awards. If you lose a car in an accident it is easy to determine the value of that car. Who needs a lawyer for that, right? But if you lose a limb in the same car accident it is not as easy to determine the value of that limb. This is where the courtroom experience of a pain and suffering attorney can come in handy. A lawyer will know exactly how to quantify emotional distress damages, step by step. For now, let’s discuss the first step.

One of the first things a lawyer will recommend is that you begin to document your experiences as soon as possible. Postponing the documentation of any emotional distress, pain, and suffering that you are experiencing can significantly weaken your case and reduce the total compensation you might otherwise have been awarded. Think of it like this: documentation creates evidence. Evidence, in turn, creates a strong case. And only strong cases obtain the maximum amount of compensation. This is why we encourage our clients at Helland Law Group to keep a journal of the pain and suffering they are experiencing.

Let’s just say you were in a car accident that left you with a broken rib. After seeking medical care and contacting your insurance, your next move should be to write down your daily experiences of emotional distress, pain, and suffering, however mundane they may seem.

Forget the phrase, “Less is more”.In pain and suffering cases, more is more.

So if you are having trouble sleeping, write it down. If you are having trouble focusing at work, write it down. Having trouble driving to the grocery store? Write it down. You can’t lean down far enough to put in a load of laundry without experiencing sharp pain? You guessed it, write it down. While any one of these details may seem insignificant when taken on their own, the cumulative effect they will have on your pain and suffering case is very significant. Now that you know the first step in quantifying emotional distress damages, let’s go over some additional steps a lawyer will take.

How Do Pain and Suffering Lawyers Determine Settlement Compensation?

To obtain the maximum compensation for a client’s pain and suffering, a lawyer will first simply talk to them. And listen. The lawyer will ask all sorts of questions about the pain and suffering their client is experiencing. After this initial consultation with a client, a lawyer will gather further evidence such as:

  • Medical bills and records
  • Photographs of injuries or scars
  • Receipts for over-the-counter medication or assistive devices like crutches, neck braces, etc.

The job of a pain and suffering lawyer is to calculate the maximum compensation that they believe their client deserves and then, work hard to convince the defendants and the jury to award their client as close to that sum as possible. In the end, however, the actual compensation a client is awarded is not entirely up to their attorney.

Let’s just say that a car hit you while you were crossing the street and broke your collarbone. In a pre-trial hearing your attorney will make it clear to the defendants just how much pain and suffering you have endured as a result of the accident. At this point, the defendants could attempt to avoid a trial by offering you a settlement in an amount that they believe to be fair compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured. If in this situation you feel that their offer is fair compensation for your collarbone fracture and any additional emotional distress, then you can simply accept their offer and walk away. But beware, a defendant’s settlement offer likely will never be as large as the maximum compensation you could be awarded should you choose to go to trial. If you do not feel the defendant’s settlement offer is fair you can reject it and your case can go to mediation or to a trial where a jury will ultimately decide how much compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering. Your attorney will do everything in their power to convince the jury that you deserve the maximum compensation.

How Much Money Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering?

Luckily, there are no statutes in Washington state that cap compensation for cases of pain and suffering. In other words, there is currently no law in Washington state  limiting how much money you can sue for pain and suffering that you have endured as a result of an accident. But, before you get your hopes up too high, you should know that the sky is not necessarily the limit.

Remember, it is ultimately the jury that awards the final compensation amount for pain and suffering if your case goes to court. Not your attorney. So if a jury should come back with a dollar amount that is abnormally high, a judge may see fit to reduce that compensation. Or, the defendants could file a notice of appeal to the Washington Court of Appeals.

We go into more detail about average pain and suffering settlements in another blog article we wrote titled, "Typical Pain & Suffering Awards."

Are “Free Pain and Suffering Calculators” Accurate?

The first thing to know about pain and suffering caused by an accident is that it is not an exact science, especially when it comes to the question of how to quantify emotional distress damages. For that reason, it is important to be wary of the countless “Free Pain and Suffering Calculators” that have popped up online in recent years. Even Google has its own personal injury calculator. If you’re curious take a look at this pain and suffering settlement calculator we created at Helland Law Group as an example.

These online calculators certainly are free, and easy to use. However, they also claim to be accurate predictors of the amount of compensation you could be awarded in a pain and suffering settlement. If this sounds a little too good to be true, it’s because it is. Let’s face it. There is no crystal ball in personal injury law. If you want an accurate look into the future of your pain and suffering case there is no substitute for a consultation with an experienced attorney.

Unfortunately, there is no formula or calculator that can spit out an accurate dollar figure in a matter of minutes as to how much compensation your pain and suffering might be worth to a jury. Why aren’t these calculators accurate? Because each pain and suffering case is different from the last. At Helland Law Group, we understand that the pain and suffering experienced by every client is unique to their circumstances. But if every case is different, then how is pain and suffering compensation calculated?

How Pain and Suffering Compensation Is Calculated

Traditionally, pain and suffering compensation is calculated by the following two methods:

  • Per Diem method
  • Multiplier method

The Per Diem method puts a dollar amount on every day that you experience an injury due to an accident. It then multiplies that daily dollar amount by the total number of days that you have experienced pain and suffering, or likely will. Why don’t we dive into some pain and suffering multiplier examples. Let’s say your daily dollar amount is estimated at $150 and you have been experiencing pain and suffering for two and half months or 75 days. That would give you a total compensation of roughly $11,250.

The Multiplier method adds up all incurred costs like medical bills, lost wages, etc. along with inevitable future costs. It then takes that total and multiplies it 1.5 to 5 times that amount depending on the severity of the pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Say your medical bills and loss of income are estimated to wind up costing you $50,000. If the devastation of the accident has upended your entire life then you might multiply that $50,000 by 4. That would give you a total compensation of roughly $200,000.

Say a car accident costs you around $8,000 upfront in medical bills and you sustained a few injured fingers. While this injury could impede your ability to work it might not prevent you from missing work entirely. In this scenario, the pain and suffering multiplier might be at the low end of “1.5”. That puts your compensation at around $12,000. But what if, in the same scenario, you are a piano teacher? You can’t exactly teach piano without the use of your fingers. You would be experiencing greater pain, suffering, and emotional distress than the average worker. So you would set your multiplier around “2 or 3” instead of the average worker’s “1.5”, placing your compensation around $16,000 to $24,000. But what if you, a piano teacher, lost your fingers in the accident? This injury would ruin your career and upend your entire life.

As you can see, quantifying emotional distress for a piano teacher who has lost their fingers in an accident is going to be a lot more complicated than a quick calculation with the Per Diem method. This piano teacher scenario is just one of the countless variables that render free online pain and suffering calculators inaccurate. Because if a piano teacher who lost their fingers in an accident were to walk into our office and ask, “How much can I sue ‘em for?” we are going to give that client a much higher settlement estimate than another client who might have also lost his fingers in an accident, but who happens to work in a call center. While it may not sound too glamorous, compensation for pain and suffering really is calculated on a case-by-case basis according to the specific circumstances of each case.

Now that we have gotten into the weeds of case variables and explored a few examples, you should have a basic knowledge of pain and suffering lawsuits. And that’s a great first step. Your next step is to contact an experienced attorney.

Are You Experiencing Pain and Suffering Due to an Accident?

If you or a loved one are experiencing pain and suffering due to an accident, know that you are not alone. There is no one who will take better care of you and fight for your right to compensation than we will here at Helland Law Group. And if there is one thing we know from over fifty years of experience, it’s that the sooner you reach out to a lawyer the greater your chances are to achieve the best possible outcome for you or a loved one. So please do not hesitate to give us a call at 253-572-2684.

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Questions about How Pain and Suffering Compensation is Calculated? Ask Slater.

Can you calculate pain and suffering compensation?▾

Yes. But not with a high degree of accuracy. Traditionally, the Per Diem and Multiplier methods are used to calculate pain and suffering. While there are many free online calculators that claim to be accurate, the truth is that calculating pain and suffering compensation is not an exact science. No two cases are the same. However, an attorney will be able to estimate and fight for the maximum compensation for their client based on prior experience with pain and suffering cases.

Is it hard to prove emotional distress?▾

In general, proving emotional distress is more challenging than proving a personal injury. Juries tend to be more sympathetic to an easily visible injury like a facial scar than self-reported insomnia. This is why we recommend that you keep a journal to log any emotional distress you are experiencing as soon as possible. It is also important to have expert testimony about your emotional distress, which can be provided by a health care specialist, such as a psychiatrist. Emotional distress damages are quantified by building a convincing body of evidence.

How is pain and suffering compensation calculated?▾

Compensation for pain and suffering is typically calculated in two ways. The Per Diem method and the Multiplier method. The Per Diem method puts a dollar amount on every day that you experience an injury due to an accident. It then multiplies that daily dollar amount by the total number of days that you have experienced pain and suffering. The Multiplier method adds up all the existing medical bills and lost wages and factors in similar future costs. It then takes that total and multiplies it anywhere from 1.5 to 5 times that amount depending on the severity of the pain and suffering.

Can you negotiate pain and suffering compensation with insurance?▾

Yes, you can negotiate pain and suffering compensation with an insurance company. It’s important to remember, however, that insurance companies are not your friend in this process. They will not look out for your best interest. To keep their business afloat it is in their best interest to settle your claim as fast as possible while giving you as little compensation as possible. For this reason, you should remain professional while negotiating and, whatever you do, do not disclose anything about your financial situation beyond what the insurance company needs to know to process your claim. For the best outcome when negotiating compensation with insurance you should consult with an experienced lawyer.