Calculating Pain & Suffering

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car or other vehicle crash, you may be wondering about the amount of compensation to which you are entitled for pain and suffering.  The following discusses the factors that juries often consider in determining how to calculate pain and suffering in an injury case.

How Severe Was the Pain, and How Long Did It Last?

We believe that the first consideration for juries in determining pain and suffering will be to consider the actual pain suffered by the injury victim.

Many of us have experienced a trip to the emergency room as the result of a broken bone or maybe a fairly minor cut.  Most of us have also experienced a burn injury (hopefully one that was small in size and minor in severity).  As a result, we have some degree of appreciation for certain types of pain.

We know, for instance, that even a very small burn can be extremely painful – likely most of us would rate a burn injury as a “10” in terms of pain.  The pain itself can be ongoing for hours or even days.  Unless we have had the misfortune to have been burned over a large part of our body, for most of us it’s impossible to imagine how painful a large third-degree burn can be.

Jurors, we believe, tend to picture themselves in the place of an injury victim when calculating pain and suffering to try to determine how much compensation would be fair.  For example, how much would we consider to be fair if we were injured in the same way?  In some cases, an average juror would not trade places with an injury victim for any amount of money; nonetheless, the best that can be done is provide an approximation of a sufficiently meaningful amount of money to try to provide some sort of measure for the victim.

Will the Victim Suffer Future Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering does not end simply because a trial takes place.  With many injuries, pain and suffering can last for years, or even for the remaining lifetime of the victim.

Back, neck, shoulder, and knee injuries, in particular, may be chronic.  The pain may not only linger for years, the conditions and associated pain can get worse over time and cause even more pain.  Knee injuries now can often require knee replacements in the future.

The pain from severe burn injuries is particularly cruel.  Burn victims often need to have dozens of surgeries – including painful skin grafts – that can take place years after the initial injury.  Such surgeries, skin grafts, and the associated rehabilitation can be as painful – and sometimes more painful – than the burn itself.

Is Future Pain and Suffering Recoverable?

Yes – damages can (and should be) awarded for future pain and suffering of injury victims.

In Washington State, the standard of proving future pain and suffering is the “more likely than not” standard.  With many severe injuries (especially burns), future surgeries (and the resulting pain and suffering) are likely.  In such cases, it is important to prove to juries not only are such surgeries likely, but also to convey to them the extent of pain and suffering that will be associated with such surgeries.

With respect to injuries such as back and neck pain, are these matters likely to get worse over time?  Will an injury victim be in constant pain?   What treatment (such as a knee replacement) may be required?

In order to meet the “more likely than not” standard for receiving compensation for future pain and suffering, physicians or other medical experts will be needed to testify as to the prognosis of a victim’s injuries.  Such testimony can include descriptions of the future treatment, the victim’s likely physical reaction to the injury over time, and the medical expert’s opinion as to the likely pain and suffering for the person injured.

Calculating Mental Anguish

Physical pain is only one aspect of pain and suffering.  Jurors may also take into account psychological pain and suffering, often referred to as “mental anguish.”  Mental anguish can include aspects related to the following:

Was the Victim Disfigured as the Result of the Injury?

Some injuries result in permanent disfigurement, which can range from scars to the loss of a limb or worse.

Even scars that are the same size can affect a person very differently.  A large scar on a person’s back is not likely to affect the person socially the same way that a smaller scar on their face would affect them (which could have a severe effect with respect to matters such as dating and business opportunities).  Jurors, for instance, may also believe that scars will have a more significant impact for children and teenagers than for seniors, and thus be likely to award greater damages to those who are younger as compared to those who may be older.

Will the Victim Have Other Emotional Trauma?

Injuries can also cause long-term psychological impact for victims.  A person severely injured in a train wreck may never be able to ride a train again.

Victims may also experience ongoing nightmares involving their injuries.  They may also suffer from a type of post-traumatic stress disorder.  The injuries themselves, and the associated ramifications, may also lead to other medical conditions, such as anxiety and depression, which may also require ongoing treatment.

Does it Matter That I Experienced Conditions Like PTSD That May Have Not Been Experienced by Someone Else?

The short answer is “no.”

If you’ve been injured and experience PTSD, anxiety, phobias, depression or a host of other symptoms, it does not matter that others may not have suffered any of those conditions.

Under the law, if you experience any of these conditions as the result of a traumatic injury, you are entitled to fair compensation.

Retaining Medical Experts to Prove Your Pain and Suffering to a Jury

Our role as Seattle injury lawyers is to make your case to a jury (as well as in any settlement opportunities) so that the full extent of your pain and suffering can be appreciated and appropriately compensated.

To prove the pain and suffering of our clients who are severely injured (including the anticipated future pain and suffering), we will retain medical experts to address the pain and suffering prior to trial, as well as the future surgeries, procedures, other treatment, and the degree of future pain and suffering that our clients are likely to have as the result.  This same proof must also be introduced to show psychological pain and suffering.

What is the Multiplier Method for Calculating Pain and Suffering?

One method of calculating pain and suffering is known as the “multiplier method.”  Under the multiplier method, pain and suffering are calculated based upon the medical expenses incurred.  A jury may multiply the actual medical expenses incurred by some factor (often between three and seven) in order to arrive at a number.  For instance, if medical expenses were $5,000 and a jury determined that a factor of five should be used, the monetary damages for pain and suffering would be equal to $25,000.

Severity of Damages – The Effect of Injuries on a Particular Plaintiff

While the multiplier method may be a simple mathematical formula for calculating damages, in many cases it is wholly inadequate.  A large scar from a dog bite on a person’s leg that is covered by pants (and not visible to the public most of the time) may have the same relatively low medical cost as a similar scar on a person’s face, but the facial scar may lead to more pain and suffering because the scar is always visible.  For a teenager who may be beginning to date, a facial scar may cause significantly more pain and suffering than a married senior.

How We Prove Pain and Suffering

If we are retained as your lawyers, our job is to convey all aspects of your pain and suffering so that you can be fully and fairly compensated.

Prior to trial, we make clear to the defendants exactly how much pain and suffering you have endured, so that they will know what a jury will likely see at trial.  They then will have the option for settling your case for a fair and reasonable amount based upon the facts and circumstances of your case, or they can choose to let a jury determine liability and damages.

If the defendants are unwilling to offer fair and acceptable settlement to you, we will work vigorously at trial to not only prove fault, but also to convey to a jury the true amount of pain and suffering that you have endured so that they will award you full compensation for your damages.

To Learn More About Pain and Suffering Damages, Please Call Us at 206-388-0333 for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation

We will meet with you at your convenience.  Once we learn more about the facts and circumstances of your case we can provide you with our assessment of the strength of your case and the damages that may be available.  If retained, we will work tirelessly on your behalf on a contingency fee basis to seek the full measure of compensation to which we believe you are entitled.

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