Insurance Claims for Personal Injury: How Do I Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages?


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Pain and suffering damages refer to the amount of money a person should be compensated for because of the pain and suffering the person has endured.  Pain and suffering damages can be awarded for the future, for the present, or for the past, depending on the injuries, when they happened and how severe they are.  More specifically, if a person was in a car accident, and remained in pain for an entire year, and is only now settling a claim with an insurance company, such person would attempt to get pain and suffering damages for the entire year that he or she was in pain.  If a person can obtain an expert opinion that he or she will endure pain likely for 5 years in the future, then it is possible to obtain money damages for that future five years as well.  Notably, future damages are more difficult to obtain than past or present damages, because victims cannot have personal documentation of his or her future pain.  However, a victim can have documentation, i.e., medical records, video, pictures etc, of present or past pain.

One of the difficult parts of settling a personal injury claim is that unlike medical bills, or lost wages, pain and suffering will cost a person an undefined amount of money.  The amount is subjective.  So how do people generally place dollar values on this pain and suffering, when requesting a settlement from an insurance company?

First, let me mention a pain and suffering calculation myth that exits and circulates throughout the internet.  Myth:  insurance companies determine the severity of the injury, and based on that that severity level, multiply the medical expenses by a factor of between 2 and 5, resulting in the amount required to compensate pain and suffering.  This method was used in the 80s, but it is rarely used by insurance companies today.  Why?  Multiplying medical bills by any number cannot possibly create a justifiable pain and suffering amount.

Instead, many insurance companies take each injury and assess it based on individual merit.  Some insurance companies use calculating software programs to determine payout amounts.  Other insurance companies base the amount they will pain generally on how much they have paid on past similar injuries and circumstances.  There is an abundance of literature on different methods for calculating pain and suffering today.  The broad rule which I see from this literature is, that people should not place an arbitrary number on the pain and suffering and then ask for it.  You will need to come up with a reason for why that amount is justified.  One example of this is determining about how many days you have or will endure pain and suffering and how much each of those days of pain is worth in dollar value.  Then multiply the number of days by the amount you valued the pain and suffering at.   In many cases, this amount would be between 25 and 50 dollars per day.

The Cook & Cook Law Firm, PLLC handles personal injury cases in San Antonio and surrounding cities.  If you would like help with your injury, call us!  (210) 271-2800.

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