Typical Pain & Suffering Awards

And How to Prove Your Pain & Suffering in Court

A woman is looking at the scene of a car crash, knowing she will be eligible for a typical pain and suffering award.

When dealing with a personal injury case, it’s hard to put a pin on what a typical pain and suffering award amounts to. What we can do is share with you how an average pain and suffering settlement is calculated, and how to document pain and suffering. There are important steps to take to ensure that you receive your maximum award, which we will walk you through in this article. Step 1: get in touch with an experienced lawyer as early as you can.

Pain and suffering awards

Definition of Pain and Suffering

You may have heard the phrase before, but really, what is “pain and suffering”? Often discussed when an accident occurs, pain and suffering is a legal term that refers to physical and emotional damages.

Pain and suffering encompass not only the physical pain that you experience but also some of the loss of activities that result from the type of accident that you've been involved in. It can also involve some of the emotional aspects of being involved in an accident. If you have experienced significant suffering due to an accident, you may qualify for compensation during settlement. 

Pain and Suffering Settlement Examples

Injuries that qualify for average pain and suffering settlements vary widely. They can be awarded for injuries that result in back and neck pain, concussion or headaches, broken or fractured bones, internal organ damage, nerve damage or paralysis, just to name a few. Mental or emotional injuries included in pain and suffering settlements can include many things, from worry, anger, and anxiety, to depression, cognitive changes, and PTSD.

To give you a general pain and suffering settlement example, imagine this scenario: Let’s say you get into a car accident, and sustain a broken wrist and a concussion. You were not the at-fault driver, and you had to pay $6,000 in medical charges and need to make repairs to your vehicle. Aside from dealing with insurance claims and scheduling repairs for your car, a broken wrist and a concussion make day-to-day life significantly more challenging, particularly if the concussion was severe. If this information was properly documented and presented to the court or the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you are likely to be awarded a pain and suffering settlement that exceeds simple reimbursement for your lost money.

Car accidents are some of the most common cases that we deal with that involve pain and suffering. When we think of pain and suffering settlement examples, we have had clients receive lower-scale awards of a few thousand dollars. On the high side of the scale, car accident pain and suffering cases can be awarded upwards of $250,000 or $500,000.

In Washington state, you generally have three years to file your personal injury lawsuit after the date of a car accident.If you are looking to prove pain and suffering in court, however, do not delay in getting in touch with an attorney so that you can take the necessary (time-sensitive) steps. 

Average Pain and Suffering Settlements

Many factors determine typical pain and suffering awards. Some of these include the type of accident, what type of injury was sustained, state laws, the day-to-day impacts, and the way that settlement is being calculated. It’s difficult to say what an average pain and suffering settlement amounts to because no two accidents or injuries are the same. In general, the more severe the injury, the higher the settlement will be.

At Helland Law Group, we’ve worked with clients who were involved in accidents and experienced no pain and suffering. We’ve also worked on cases where clients have incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses related to pain and suffering. Still other cases, we’ve seen accidents that incurred low medical bills, but had high amounts of pain and suffering. The bottom line is, that every situation is different.

The best way to know what kind of award you may receive is to get in touch with an experienced pain and suffering lawyer as soon as you can after an accident. 

How is Pain and Suffering Determined?

We've written a full article on how pain and suffering compensation is calculated. Please take advantage of the free resource. 

In the article we make it clear that there is no one tried-and-true formula for answering the the question, "how is pain and suffering determined?" There are, however, a few different methods that are used to help determine a pain and suffering award. These methods are starting places, not be-all-end-all techniques. The two most common methods of calculating pain and suffering are the Per Diem method and the Multiplier method.

  • When using the Per Diem method, an attorney will determine the daily financial loss their client has experienced due to the accident and total the number of days that they have suffered.
  • The Multiplier method is more frequently used by pain and suffering lawyers so that their client’s settlement is not tied to their income. This method totals up all expenses incurred because of the accident, and multiplies the amount by a number typically between 1.5 and 5%, depending on the severity of the injury.

Insurance companies are not obligated to adhere to these methods of calculation, and neither are attorneys, but they do pay attention to how pain and suffering are documented and proven.

How to Document Pain and Suffering

The most important step in the process of receiving a settlement is knowing how to document pain and suffering. This is where having an experienced attorney can make all the difference. You may not realize all the compensation that you are entitled to, and that’s where a pain and suffering lawyer can help you create a plan for documentation. Journal about what you're going through. Date your journal entries. We go into greater detail about this type of journaling in a related article. Look for the section titled "How to Quantify Emotional Distress Damages" to dig into details.

Physical injuries are often easier to document because there are visible or tangible effects from the accident. Mental or emotional distress is more challenging to prove as pain and suffering in court. We recommend seeing a therapist for the emotional side of things because that helps to establish official documentation. It's very, very important to start early and follow through with treatment. The same would be true for treating your physical ailments. Follow through on your medical team's treatment plan. Your doctors notes and your own notes will help you demonstrate evidence of pain and suffering  so that your need for compensation has credibility in the eyes of the court, insurance companies, and/or the opposing legal team.


How to Prove Pain and Suffering in Court

At Helland, we always encourage our clients to keep a journal of what they are experiencing. The more that you document your injury pain and emotional distress daily, the better record you will have to share with your healthcare provider and the court. The key to documenting pain and suffering? Be precise and concise.

When in doubt, write it out, even if it seems insignificant. If you are having difficulty sleeping, or you're sleeping on your side instead of your back, jot it down. This will help your doctor with your treatment and prove pain and suffering in court. 

What do You Have to Lose?

The most important step for claiming pain and suffering in court is to start early. Do not delay. If you have experienced an injury through no fault of your own, get in contact with an attorney. They will walk you through each step of how to document pain and suffering, and how to prove your case in court. Our Tacoma personal injury attorneys can help you develop your case properly and make sure that you protect yourself during the process. 

Delaying consultation from an attorney can seriously diminish your chances of receiving a typical pain and suffering award because you will likely miss critical areas for documentation. Knowing the steps you need to take can make all the difference in your personal injury case or the case of a loved one. For effective, compassionate legal counsel, please give us a call at 253-572-2684.

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What is Pain and Suffering Compensation?▾

Pain and suffering compensation is often awarded during a personal injury case. This award addresses the amount of hardship that someone has endured (physically and mentally) due to an accident. To achieve this, it’s important to know how to prove pain and suffering in court. 

What constitutes pain and suffering?▾

“Pain and suffering” includes both the physical injuries and emotional distress or trauma caused by an accident. Loss of daily function due to anything from a broken arm or whiplash to loss of sleep or PTSD can qualify as pain and suffering. To receive appropriate compensation, it’s important to document your experiences every day, starting as soon as you can. 

What is a typical pain and suffering award?▾

A typical pain and suffering award varies greatly depending on the type of accident and injury. In general, the more severe the injury, the higher the award. Some cases can receive a few thousand dollars in a pain and suffering settlement, while others may receive hundreds of thousands or more. It’s difficult to state what the average pain and suffering settlement is, but an experienced lawyer will be able to give you an idea of the amount of compensation you may be entitled to based on the specifics of your accident. 

Is pain and suffering separate from medical bills?▾

Pain and suffering settlements are separate from medical bills. The physical injuries sustained during an accident do not always indicate what the award amount could be. Some cases will have very large medical bills, but do not qualify for a pain and suffering settlement. Other cases will have little to no medical bills but receive a very large pain and suffering award. 

How pain and suffering is determined?▾

Determining pain and suffering is not an exact science, but there are two common methods that attorneys use to estimate damages caused by pain and suffering. These two methods are the Multiplier method and the Per Diem method. The Multiplier method totals up the amounts of damages incurred by an accident and multiplies it by a number typically between 1.5 and 5%, depending on the severity of the injury. The Per Diem method determines the daily financial loss someone has experienced due to their accident.