Tips and tricks to estimate the value of your claim for pain and suffering damages
If you’ve been involved in an accident, you undoubtedly suffered some objectively-verifiable damages, such as medical expenses and car repair costs.
But anyone involved in an accident knows there’s more to an accident than objectively-verifiable damages. What about the pain and suffering caused by the accident? It may be impossible to quantify, but that doesn’t mean a plaintiff shouldn’t receive compensation for it.
In this article, we’ll take a look at pain and suffering damages in Alabama, including the formula attorneys and insurance companies use to estimate the value of a plaintiff’s pain and suffering.
What types of damages are available in Alabama?
There are 2 main types of personal injury damages available in Alabama:
• Economic damages (sometimes called “special damages”) are intended to compensate you for the objectively-verifiable monetary losses that result from your injuries.
Examples of economic damages include medical expenses, lost income and property damage. These damages can be proved fairly easily by showing the court receipts (e.g., medical bills, wage statements or repair estimates)
• Non-economic damages (sometimes called “general damages”) are intended to compensate you for the subjective, non-monetary losses caused by your injury.
Examples of non-economic damages include mental and emotional distress, physical pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. These damages cannot be easily proven.
What are pain and suffering damages?
As discussed above, pain and suffering damages are non-economic damages. More specifically, “pain and suffering” is a term used to describe the physical pain and suffering you experience as a result of your injuries.
Let’s say you’re involved in a truck accident in Mobile that results in multiple leg fractures and severe burns. While waiting for the ambulance, you experience the worst pain of your life. What’s more, it takes you 2 years to fully recover from the accident. During this recovery time, you’re bedridden and in extreme discomfort. On top of that, you’re unable to visit your parents across the country or participate in the activities you loved before your injury.
Your economic damages will cover the medical costs associated with treating your leg injuries (as well as any wages you may lose), but the physical discomfort caused by the accident constitutes “pain and suffering” for which you can also be compensated.
Is there a pain and suffering damages calculator?
How can you put a price tag on the pain and suffering you experience as a result of an accident?
The honest answer is that you can’t. There’s no way to accurately quantify something so subjective.
Nevertheless, insurance adjusters and attorneys need a way to quickly estimate the total value of a claim. As a result, insurance companies and attorneys often account for pain and suffering by using a multiplier between 1 and 5 (the more severe the injury, the higher the multiplier).
For example, a traumatic brain injury would likely receive a multiplier of 5, whereas a sprained ankle would receive a multiplier of 1.
Here’s what the rest of the formula looks like:
Economic damages x 1-5 (depending on the severity of the injury) + lost income
Some factors that make a high multiplier more likely include: injuries that are observable by medical examination, a recovery process expected to last at least 6 months and permanent consequences (such as permanent scarring or paralysis).
Let’s see how the formula above looks in action. Consider the following example:
A motorcyclist was involved in a crash caused by a motor vehicle driver. The motorcyclist suffered a traumatic brain injury and is no longer able to perform his job duties. The motorcyclist earned $50,000 per year and planned to work for another 2 years before retiring. What’s more, the motorcyclist’s past and future medical expenses are expected to total $1 million.
Here’s how an insurance agent would quickly estimate the value of the motorcyclist’s claim:
$1 million x 5 + $100,000 = $5.1 million
In other words, the motorcyclist’s claim (at 1st glance) is worth $5.1 million.
Keep in mind that this is only a starting point. The final amount awarded can go up or down significantly depending on a number of factors, including:
- The quality of the evidence
- The nature of recovery
- The permanence of the injury
- The likeability of the plaintiff
- The makeup of the jury
As an alternative to the multiplier approach, some insurance adjusters and attorneys use a per diem approach. This approach assigns a dollar amount (often the amount the plaintiff earns per day) and multiplies it by the number of days it takes to reach maximum recovery or, in cases of permanent disability, the life expectancy of the plaintiff.
Consider the following example:
Jared is involved in a bicycle accident caused by a defective bike tire. He suffers a serious leg fracture that requires 8 weeks to recover. He incurs $100,000 in medical expenses. What’s more, Jared misses 3 weeks of work in which he would have earned $1,875 ($125 per workday).
How much is Jared’s claim worth?
- Medical expenses = $100,000
- Lost wages = $1,875
- Pain and suffering ($125 per day for 8 weeks)= $7,000
- Total compensation = $108,875.
What documentation do I need to support my pain and suffering claim?
The more evidence you have to support the impact of your injury on your life, the better chance you have at recovering the pain and suffering damages you deserve.
There are no strict rules governing the evidence that supports a pain and suffering claim. Here is some evidence that might be helpful:
- Medical records that reference your pain and suffering (be sure to tell your doctor about your suffering so the doctor can make a note in your records)
- The written opinion of a mental health professional addressing your physical state before, during and after your injury
- Prescription history
- Your testimony regarding your pain and suffering
- Testimony from your family, friends and colleagues explaining the physical toll the accident has taken
Where do I find an Alabama personal injury attorney who can help?
Insurance companies and defense attorneys often push back when plaintiffs request significant pain and suffering damages. An experienced personal injury attorney can negotiate with insurance companies and defense attorneys and take your case to court if necessary.