Calculating Pain & Suffering in Car Accident Cases

Car Accidents,Features | January 4, 2021

If you get injured in a car accident in California, the law may entitle you to financial compensation for various losses. This can include an award for your noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a complicated aspect of car accident law. You may need assistance from a Los Angeles car accident attorney.

Legally, What Are Pain and Suffering?

There are two broad categories of financial damages available in a car accident case: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages make an accident victim whole again while punitive damages punish or penalize a defendant for gross negligence. Compensatory damages are further broken down into two groups: economic and noneconomic damages.

Economic damages (also known as special damages) refer to tangible and financial losses connected to a defendant’s wrongdoing, such as medical bills and property damage. Noneconomic damages (general damages) are the intangible, personal losses suffered by the accident victim. A common term for noneconomic damages is pain and suffering.

Pain and suffering can describe many general losses. Some of the most common noneconomic damages listed in an auto accident claim are physical pain or discomfort, chronic pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, lost quality or diminished enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and inconvenience.

How Do Insurance Companies Evaluate Pain and Suffering?

Insurance companies calculate pain and suffering separately from direct losses, such as hospital bills or time lost from work. To evaluate a car accident victim’s general damages and determine the value of a claim, an insurance company will analyze many factors:

  • Whether or not you went to a doctor
  • Notes from your doctor
  • The severity of your injuries
  • How long it will take you to recover
  • Whether you took time off from work or school

If you contributed to the car accident, the insurance company will consider your partial liability as well. If you and the defendant share the blame, this could reduce your award under California law. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to estimate the value of your pain and suffering award since there is no set formula for calculating this category.

There Is No Calculator for a Personal Injury Settlement

As a car accident victim, it is normal to search for an online calculator for the value of your case. This does not exist, however, as an insurance company can use numerous factors unique to your case to determine its value. Although calculation methods for pain and suffering are available, such as the Multiplier Method and Per Diem Method, an insurance company (or a jury during a car accident trial) is not required to use them. An insurance company can evaluate pain and suffering according to its own discretion – making it impossible to use a calculator for an accurate evaluation.

pain and suffering in car accidents

What Types of Evidence Prove Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering can be a difficult damage category to prove. While you can establish tangible losses using evidence such as medical records, bills from the hospital and vehicle repair price quotes, you may not have physical evidence to prove pain and suffering. This is not something you can physically see. Instead, proving pain and suffering may require evidence such as:

  • Testimony from the victim
  • The victim’s injury journal
  • Testimony from friends and family
  • A presentation or demonstration from an attorney
  • Medical or psychological expert testimony

You may also be able to supplement your pain and suffering claim with physical evidence, such as photographs of your injuries, scars or disfigurement, medical records, and receipts from prescription or over-the-counter pain medications.

Get Help From a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer

If you wish to maximize your pain and suffering award after an auto accident, hire an attorney. A Los Angeles car accident lawyer can help you gather evidence and present it to an insurance company or judge and jury to establish pain and suffering. Your lawyer can also take over communications with an insurance company for you, negotiating an adequate amount for your injuries and losses. Your lawyer will fight for the amount you deserve for pain and suffering.

During the COVID-19 crisis, The Ryan Law Group is open for business and continues to be available to existing and new clients through virtual meetings and teleconferences. We can handle all of your legal needs without you leaving your house. Please, call (310) 321-4800 or contact us here to be connected to our attorneys who can get to work on your case.