gavel and money: personal injury settlement

When you sustain an injury due to the negligence of another party, New York state law permits financial recovery for your losses through the civil courts. You can recoup economic damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Yet, you are also entitled to pursue non-economic damages, including pain and suffering.

Naturally, if you’ve been hurt in a sudden, serious accident, you may be wondering what exactly pain and suffering means, and how these damages are calculated. A personal injury lawyer from Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green would be happy to explain pain and suffering calculations with you in a free consultation. In the meantime, we’ve outlined some of the main questions people ask us.

What is the legal definition of pain and suffering?

Pain and suffering are a broad terms to describe physical, mental, and emotional injuries. This may include:

  • Physical aches, pain, discomfort, scarring, disfigurement, temporary, and permanent impairment.
  • Mental anguish, distress, anxiety, humiliation, fear, shame, shock, helplessness, depression, and PTSD.
  • Loss of companionship, consortium, longevity, and enjoyment in life.

Plaintiffs may collect for past, present, and future pain and suffering.

Are there any rules for calculating pain and suffering?

There are no hard, and fast rule juries go by for determining the value of one’s pain and suffering. Unlike calculating economic damages, there are no bills, receipts, or pay stubs to help guide juries in figuring out how much to award. To a large extent, fair and reasonable calculations depend upon the good sense, background, and experience of the jurors.

The judge must then agree or disagree with the figure presented. It is not unusual for a judge to deem a calculation excessive and reduce the total. For this reason, it is important to have a New York personal injury law firm advocating for your claim’s maximum value.

How are pain and suffering damages calculated?

There are several common methods employed to calculate personal injury pain and suffering justly:

  • The Multiplier – This method involves using the economic damages as a starting point, combined with a multiplier between 1.4 and 4 to indicate severity. This type of calculation is most commonly employed in cases where the total damages are less than $50,000. 
  • The Per Diem Approach – For long-term injuries where total damages are high, a per diem approach may be used. This is where a certain amount of expense (say $100 or the amount of your daily wage) is multiplied by every day it takes to reach maximum recovery.

What factors go into determining pain and suffering?

The first major factor in calculating pain and suffering is you. Juries will consider whether the plaintiff is:

  • Likable and credible
  • A good or bad witness
  • Consistent in testimony
  • A person with a criminal record or history of lying
  • Truly suffering physically, as medically documented

On top of plaintiff believability, they will consider the type of physical injuries sustained, including:

  • The severity of the physical injuries
  • The pain and overall discomfort associated with those injuries
  • How the injuries impact day-to-day life, mobility, work, and relationships
  • The amount, type, and invasiveness of medical treatment necessary
  • How long those injuries take to heal and whether there will be a need for future care

Which injuries get the most compensation for pain and suffering?

Soft tissue injuries that involve sprain or strain of the back, neck, knee, or ankle are generally valued lower, with 1.5-3X multipliers added to general damages. Every car accident lawyer knows that whiplash is no joke, but even so, insurers value soft injuries lower. They know that damage to the connective tissues, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are rarely permanent or life-threatening.

They can also be more difficult to prove in court. However, semantics matters: if your doctor labels your injury a contusion, a torn ligament, or damaged cartilage, you may receive a higher multiplier, even though the injury is technically no different than a sprain, strain, or overstretching. Scarring burns and disfiguring wounds are also elevated to a more severe category, even though they are technically soft tissue injuries. 

On the other hand, hard injuries, observed by a medical professional on x-ray, receive 4-5X multipliers. They tend to be very disruptive to a person’s mobility for longer periods. For instance, a broken bone– even a minor chip or crack– can take upwards of a year to fully heal.

Some accident victims require surgery with hardware implantation. Head trauma can have long-term or permanent effects. Just one concussion can permanently alter the brain, causing lasting damage. Spinal disk or vertebrae injuries can be extremely painful and require many medical treatments to resolve.  

How can a lawyer help you get more for pain and suffering?

If you’ve been severely hurt, don’t try to go it alone.

An experienced New York City personal injury attorney will:

  • Fiercely advocate for you in settlement talks with insurers.
  • Bring in outside experts to testify as to the severity of your injuries.
  • Help prepare you for court, so you are as reputable as a witness as possible.
  • Argue for future pain and suffering, which can drive up your settlement or award value considerably.

Working with Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green costs you nothing upfront. You only pay a legal fee if we win.