How Do You Calculate Pain And Suffering In A Personal Injury Case?


After you’ve been injured, medical bills pile up. You lose wages due to time off work spent in recovery. Luckily, you can recover these costs from the person who caused you harm with the help of a personal injury lawyer. What about the less tangible costs, though? How do you calculate a fair settlement based pain and suffering in a personal injury case?

Calculating pain and suffering in a personal injury case isn’t easy because there is no simple way to quantify how much you have suffered. The physical pain and emotional trauma associated with an accident or injury has an obvious cost, but no two people would necessarily agree on how much. In California, there is no set guideline or limit for damages associated with a personal injury case. This is a subjective decision made by judges or agreed upon by lawyers.

In personal injury cases, it’s generally assumed that a broken bone is less traumatic (and less painful) than a permanent disability, but even these assumptions can have flaws. A soft tissue injury, like whiplash, is generally seen as minor and less deserving of a large pain and suffering payment than a fracture, even though it may be very painful.

How the Courts Typically Calculate Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case in California

It may seem like there is no fair way to calculate pain and suffering in a personal injury case in California. However, there are two established ways the courts can better calculate a fair settlement.

  • Establish a multiple of the special damages: Special damages are those easily calculable expenses you incur after an injury, such as medical bills. This sum is then multiplied by a set amount to come to a fair payment for pain and suffering. This set multiplier can be between 1.5 and 4. If you’re working with an insurance company, a computer calculates a multiplier on a sliding scale based on the severity of your injuries. Whiplash or a soft tissue injury would only use a multiplier of 1.5 or 2, while a debilitating or permanent injury could use a multiple as high as 4.
  • Calculate daily rate for the duration of your recovery period: You can calculate pain and suffering by awarding a daily pain and suffering “cost” for each day of your recovery (the duration of which is determined by an objective medical assessment like how long you need physical therapy or an assistive device). The daily rate is not always easy to pinpoint, but many people use a rate equal to the amount of money they would earn in a day adjusted up or down depending on the severity of your injuries. This assumes that that the pain and suffering is equivalent to a lost day’s work (plus or minus some relief/ added pain associated with your injuries). The key to calculating pain and suffering this way is sufficiently justifying your daily rate.6

These two methods give a general idea of what a fair pain and suffering settlement might entail. Usually, the two numbers are considered together and averaged to come to the final calculation. No matter what, calculating pain and suffering is complicated. That’s why it helps to have an experienced personal injury lawyer do the calculations for you. Your lawyer will know how to justify what you are asking and ensure you get the settlement you deserve in order to recover. Come talk to the California personal injury attorneys at Wakeford Law today to find out how we may be able to help.

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