How is Pain and Suffering Calculated After a Massachusetts Car Accident?

“Pain and suffering” is often used as a catch-all term for “non-economic damages” in general.  “Non-economic damages” are the damages that you face after an accident that aren’t tied to a monetary value.  Calculating pain and suffering and other non-economic damages is often harder than calculating economic damages like hospital bills and vehicle repairs.

Generally, courts and insurance companies calculate pain and suffering in one of two ways.  One option is to set a multiplier based on how severe your pain and suffering is, then multiply that by your other damages to calculate an award for pain and suffering.  Alternatively, they will use a per diem amount and multiply that value by the number of days you will experience pain and suffering.

Talk to an attorney today if you need help calculating pain and suffering in your car accident case.  The Boston car accident injury attorneys at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan offer free case reviews.  Call us at (617) 925-6407.

What Counts as Pain and Suffering and Other Non-Economic Damages in a Massachusetts Car Accident Case?

“Pain and suffering” refers to the physical feelings of pain and the mental suffering that you face after an accident.  This phrase is sometimes used as a catch-all phrase for all “non-economic damages,” but you could technically consider pain and suffering just one of the many types of non-economic damages, along with the following:

  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Embarrassment
  • Lost enjoyment of life
  • Lost enjoyment of activities (e.g., riding a bike, playing tennis)
  • Discomfort
  • Inconvenience

These and many other harms can occur because of an accident, and they deserve to be compensated just like any economic damages (e.g., lost wages, vehicle damage, medical expenses).

In an accident, this means you technically receive monetary damages to cover the medical bills (as a form of economic damages) and for the pain of the injury itself (as pain and suffering damages).  However, pain and suffering does not come with a bill or statement that says how much it’s worth, which makes calculating these damages very different from calculating economic damages based on statements and bills.

Calculating Pain and Suffering in a Massachusetts Car Accident

Pain and suffering damages are typically calculated in one of two ways:

  • The “multiplier method” chooses a multiplier based on the severity of the accident and applies it to the other economic damages to find a total value for non-economic damages.
  • The “per diem” method chooses a daily amount to pay for non-economic damages and pays that value for each day you experience pain and suffering.

Keep in mind that pain and suffering is just one subset of the total damages you can claim for non-economic damages.  While this is the main factor, there may be other parts of your non-economic damages that result in higher damages than your pain and suffering.  However, the individual types of non-economic damages are all so interconnected that courts are not typically concerned with breaking down the individual payment amounts for specific types of non-economic damages.  Instead, they concern themselves more broadly with the total non-economic damages.

Your Malden car accident lawyers can help you decide which method is best in your case and how to calculate your pain and suffering that way.

Using the Multiplier Method

Typically, when using the multiplier method, your Massachusetts car accident lawyer will choose a number between 1.5 and 5 to reflect how bad your damages were.  The numbers can go beyond this, but that is typical only when pain and suffering is very low or very high.  Given that all injury cases involve some level of pain and suffering, 1.5 is typically the floor.

This multiplier is then applied to the total economic damages awarded in the case.  For example, if you had $7,000 worth of medical bills and $3,000 worth of lost wages, and a multiplier of 2 for your pain and suffering, the court would award you $10,000 in economic damages ($7,000 plus $3,000) and $20,000 for non-economic damages (2 times $10,000).

The multiplier is chosen based on the severity of the injuries, how bad the pain and suffering is, how long the injuries will last, what effect they will have on your enjoyment of life, and other details about your injuries and your trauma.  Ultimately, this method is somewhat arbitrary, and it may not be easy to tell the difference between whether a case is worth 4x the damages or 4.5x the damages, for example.  Your Somerville car accident lawyers can argue for higher multipliers in your case to help get you the damages you need.

Using the Per Diem Method

When selecting a per diem value for pain and suffering (and other non-economic damages), courts often start at a strange place: your average daily wages.  Courts essentially take your salary and turn it into a daily pay rate, then assume that your injuries are likely at least as challenging as your daily workload, so they pay you that rate each day for pain and suffering.  This is separate from any lost wage damages.

This value can be adjusted up or down based on the severity of the injuries and other similar factors that go into choosing a multiplier for the method above.  This allows the per diem rate to be adjusted based on the actual situation rather than an assumption based on your income.

The number of days used in the per diem multiplication will be based on how many days your injuries and suffering are expected to last.  If they are expected to be permanent, then an estimate can be made as to how much longer you will live.  This is an easier method to use when dealing with past pain and suffering since you already know how many days it lasted.

This method can also be seen as quite arbitrary as well.  For one, the amount of money you make at work has little to do with how severe your injuries are, especially after a car accident that had nothing to do with your job.  If you have a lower-paying job but faced severe injuries, our Wakefield car accident lawyers can fight to either use the other method or claim a high per diem rate for your severe injuries.  Another factor making this method difficult is that setting the limits of how long the payments will last can be difficult for ongoing or future damages.

Call Our Massachusetts Car Accident Attorneys Today

For a free case review on your car accident case, call (617) 925-6407 for a free case evaluation with the Cambridge car accident lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan.