How Much Will an Insurance Company Pay for Pain and Suffering Damages?
Pain and suffering damages are just one piece of the puzzle in recovering fair compensation post-accident. There are no strict rules in place for putting a dollar value on pain and suffering in your personal injury case, although there may be damage caps in your state associated with the maximum you can recover for pain and suffering.
If you've been injured because of someone else's negligent or reckless behavior, you can seek compensation through the at fault party's insurance carrier by filing a third party claim. You may allege that there are many different types of damages in your accident case and some of these may include pain and suffering.
You will need to present evidence of any losses you have already sustained associated with this incident. The insurance company will evaluate medical expenses you have incurred and any lost wages due to time missed at work from the accident. However, the insurance company should also provide you with some payments for what is known as pain and suffering. It is important to prepare your evidence as strongly as possible and with the support of an experienced personal injury attorney to get the full and clear answer to what the insurance company will pay for pain and suffering damages.
The sad thing for many accident victims is that their feelings about their pain and suffering damages can be very different from the insurance company’s interpretations of the damages. That puts you in a very difficult position to fight back and try to get the support that you need to pay your bills.
Why Pain and Suffering Matters
Victims in accidents carry a heavy weight—their world changes after a wreck. Through no fault of their own or mostly due to another person’s reckless behavior, these accident victims have to figure out how to put the pieces of their life back together. They now must cope with not just the medical bills or the lost wages directly related to the accident, but with the trauma of accepting their new way of life. In the interim, their confidence, family life, and friendships can all be affected.
Recognizing that the impact of an accident goes far beyond the medical conditions diagnosed, state laws often allow victims to request compensation for economic damages like medical bills in addition to pain and suffering. You might find that the involved insurance company pushes back on all fronts or just around pain and suffering.
Know that when the insurance company tells you that they won’t pay what you want for pain and suffering that you still have options. You can work with a personal injury lawyer to make sure you get the best possible chance of recovering all due compensation.
Defining Pain and Suffering
The legal term pain and suffering is used to explain injuries that a plaintiff may suffer as a result of an accident that go beyond the physical limitations that they've developed. This means that your injury compensation doesn't just consider physical pain but also mental and emotional injuries, such as grief, fear, worry, insomnia, loss of enjoyment of life and inconvenience. In most injury cases with severe injuries, the plaintiff should be able to recover some amount of pain and suffering. You should always consult with your personal injury lawyer about your perception of pain and suffering damages in your case and to discuss whether the facts of your circumstances warrant arguing for a bigger award.
The Insurance Company's Role in Calculating Damages
There are no strict rules or laws in place about how insurance companies should calculate pain and suffering amounts. Your own lawyer is a great resource to turn to because they will have been trained in one of two methods for determining pain and suffering calculations.
The first is known as the multiplier method which is taking the total of your true damages in lost wages and medical bills and multiplying them by a number between 1 and 5. The number between 1 and 5 used in the multiplier method depends on the severity of your injuries. Some plaintiffs' lawyers also use a per diem approach.
This means that a certain monetary amount would be assigned to every day from the accident until the plaintiff reached maximum recovery. One important thing to note as an accident victim is that maximum recovery does not always mean full recovery. Maximum recovery, for example, might mean that you have 80% healed from a broken back or that you will live with paralysis for the rest of your life. The more severe your injuries and the more it will impact your daily life and your ability to work, the more seriously this can impact your possible recovery in pain and suffering. Even though many plaintiffs' lawyers use these methods to calculate pain and suffering damages, insurance companies are not required to do so.
Most of them have developed their own software programs to determine what part of a settlement offer should be set aside for pain and suffering. These programs take into account the injury type and the medical treatment sought by the plaintiff. For example, if you had to undergo multiple surgeries to treat your injuries, this should be taken more seriously than someone who's had only a few chiropractor's visits post-accident.
How Do I Prove Pain and Suffering?
One of the most difficult aspects of any personal injury case is making an illustration of the damages sustained beyond those present in current medical bills. Pain and suffering can be subjective, meaning that it falls to the plaintiff and their lawyer to present a compelling case as to what pain and suffering damages should be. Personal journals, photographs and more can help to support your pain and suffering damages. In some cases documentation or testimony from family or friends can also provide further insight about the way that the injury has influenced your own life. If you have hired a mental health professional to help you adjust to life post-accident, especially if you have been diagnosed with conditions like depression, insomnia or anxiety, their input is also helpful.
Once you've provided this information to the insurance company, they will evaluate it and many come back with a settlement offer. You are not obligated to accept a settlement offer when it has been presented to you but you should always consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to get a sense of whether or not the pain and suffering settlement and the holistic settlement includes fair compensation for you.
As an accident victim it's hard to tell what your future will look like and it's also hard to put into exact terms how the accident has affected your present life. But hiring the right lawyer can help you advocate for yourself and ensure that you avoid the possibility of accepting a low settlement offer. Insurance companies will all have their own unique computer programs to determine pain and suffering and you should also read the fine print of your individual policy if it specifies pain and suffering payouts. Local laws, medical treatments needed and types of injuries can also influence this. Some states have pain and suffering caps.
For example, the non-economic damages in Colorado for a product liability case are capped at $613,760 but this can increase to over a million dollars in some circumstances. Hawaii has a $375,000 damage cap in most of the personal injury cases there, Texas has a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering payments in medical malpractice lawsuits, and Florida has a $500,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. Always consult with a lawyer in your state to learn more about whether other caps could apply.
How Can a Lawyer Really Help with My Case?
If the insurance company is refusing to give you any information or maintains that there’s no way to get you pain and suffering damages, then it’s worth escalating your case to a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer shows that you’re serious about protecting your rights and can increase your chances of a faster resolution in the case.
Your lawyer can review all of the existing evidence you have about your injury and tell you more about realistic perspectives on pain and suffering. Since this can be one of the hardest things to determine in your own case, having a lawyer to guide you through the process with clarity.
Your lawyer will take over the communication between you and the insurance company, which can make a big difference when it comes to your level of stress. Your lawyer can push them to provide answers and stay in contact with you so that you know what’s going on in your case.
Ultimately, having an advocate in your corner is strongly recommended when you’ve been seriously injured. If you don’t think you’re getting fair treatment on your pain and suffering, contact Morgan & Morgan to receive a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Let us help you get started in the right direction.