gavel and money: personal injury settlementGetting seriously injured can leave you with hardships besides hospital expenses. Whether you were hurt in a car crash or fell on a slippery sidewalk, if someone else’s negligence caused the accident, you can generally pursue legal action against the at-fault party and/or their insurance company.

When filing a personal injury lawsuit in New York, claimants can seek monetary reparations for damages like medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. While calculating lost income and medical expenses is easy enough, how do you place a dollar figure on the pain and suffering you have endured? “Special damages” is legalese for tangible expenses that have clear amounts, but “general damages,” including pain and suffering, are infinitely more difficult to calculate. How do you quantify the emotional anguish and physical pain that have impacted the quality of your life?

A good personal injury lawyer understands the subjective nature of pain and suffering damages and knows how to communicate to a jury how the accident negatively affected your mental and physical well-being as well as the lives of your loved ones. When New Yorkers seek representation from Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green in injury matters, we are diligent with all documentation, which helps to ensure that clients secure fair compensation for physical pain and emotional suffering.

Defining pain and suffering

Pain and suffering are damages that are less tangible and more challenging to prove. This term encompasses a wide range of emotional and psychological injuries that are a direct result of the accident.

Examples of pain and suffering damages cited in personal injury claims include:

  • Physical pain
  • Physical impairment
  • Disfigurement
  • Mental anguish including fear, grief and anxiety
  • Emotional distress such as depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Decline in quality of life – because of lost independence, lack of mobility, etc.
  • Loss of consortium or companionship
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Diminished capacity to work in a specialized career

Depending on the unique circumstances of your personal injury case, the award for pain and suffering may be a small component of your total compensation, or it may be significantly more than your special damages. While many states place limits on pain and suffering awards, or “non-economic” damages, New York is not one of them.

So, how do the courts calculate pain and suffering in a personal injury claim? There is no hard and fast rule, but these are some of primary considerations:

  • Has the injury adversely affected the plaintiff’s daily routine?
  • Has the injury and pain altered the plaintiff’s lifestyle?
  • Does the injury have long-term repercussions?
  • How long will the injuries take to heal completely?
  • Has the pain and emotional suffering affected relationships at home, with loved ones and at work?
  • Has the injury caused suffering that is likely to endure for the rest of one’s life?
  • Will the plaintiff need in-home nursing care, rehabilitation or assistive medical devices?

Calculating a pain and suffering award

Negotiating a fair settlement for a personal injury or car accident claim requires concrete evidence that demonstrates the type and severity of injuries, and how those injuries will impact your life both now and years into the future.

There are two common methods used to calculate pain and suffering: the per diem and the multiplier. In the per diem, which is Latin for “per day,” the insurer will assign a dollar figure to each day the plaintiff experienced their injuries. For instance, if your medical bills and lost wages amounted to $10,000 and it took you a total of three months (90 days) to reach maximum medical improvement, then the daily rate would be approximately $111. This per diem rate is then multiplied by the number of days where the claimant experienced pain and suffering. Pay stubs, hospital bills and physical receipts will be necessary to establish how your lawyer arrived at the per diem rate.

Multiplier method

The multiplier method for estimating pain and suffering is more commonly used.  In this method you take the total economic damages incurred—medical bills, lost wages and anticipated future expenses—and multiply this figure by a factor that ranges from 1.5 to 5. Generally speaking, the more severe the injuries, the higher the multiplier. Someone who suffered a traumatic brain injury will have lasting repercussions, which will call for a higher settlement or award compared to someone who broke their arm.

Insurance companies invariably use the lowest multiplier, which underscores the need for competent legal representation, especially in auto accident claims resulting in catastrophic injury. A skilled car accident lawyer will know the soundest strategies for maximizing the value of a claim.

Maximize your claim for pain and suffering

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green review every facet of your accident case and make sure that clients have extensive documentation, including medical records and testimony that outline the full extent of your pain and suffering.

An experienced New York personal injury lawyer can improve your chances of a fair recovery through settlement negotiations or a jury trial. Reach out today to schedule a free case review.