A fair settlement can provide your family with compensation to pay for medical bills, make up for lost wages due to missed work, and other expenses associated with daily living. Many personal injury claims also include what’s known as “pain and suffering” costs. These are noneconomic damages, such as physical pain an injury caused or emotional distress from the accident. If your family qualifies for pain and suffering damages, you or your lawyer will have to prove eligibility and calculate a fair amount of compensation to demand from the defendant. A Dallas personal injury lawyer can help you with the difficult task of calculating a reasonable pain and suffering award.
Lawyers use the term “general damages” to define any intangible losses, like pain and suffering, as part of an injury settlement.
They contrast specific damages, or damages particular to a unique plaintiff, such as his or her precise medical expenses and lost wages. General damages can refer to many different mental, emotional or psychological losses.
While you will have medical evidence and financial statements to support the value of your specific damages, it can be more difficult to quantify your pain and suffering. Luckily, those in the civil justice system have worked out a way to calculate pain and suffering damages to result in just compensation for injured parties. The two most common are the multiplier method and the per diem approach.
The most frequently used of the two methods is the multiplier method. Using this method, a jury will start with the total value of the plaintiff’s calculated economic (specific) damages, then multiply it by a suitable number according to the circumstances of the case. Jurors will vote on a multiplier between 1.5 and 5 to represent the level of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering. While a moderate injury might receive a multiplier of two or three, for example, more severe, debilitating, traumatic or painful injuries would receive higher multipliers, such as four or five.
For instance, if you lost a limb in a traumatic workplace accident, a jury might assign your case a multiplier of 4.5 to calculate pain and suffering. If the combined value of your medical bills, lost wages, legal fees, travel expenses, property repairs, disability expenses and other out-of-pocket costs was $500,000, the jury would multiply $500,000 by 4.5 for a total pain and suffering award of $2,250,000. The only time the courts will cap pain and suffering damages in Texas is during medical malpractice cases, where the maximum award is $250,000.
Less common is the “per diem” method of calculating pain and suffering. This process gets its name from the Latin phrase meaning “each day.” Rather than summarizing your general damages with one lump sum, the per diem approach works by demanding a certain dollar amount for every day you experience pain as a result of your accident.
Juries more commonly apply the per diem method to short-term injuries with clear recovery timelines versus long-term injuries. The per diem approach might not be appropriate for a long-term or permanent injury. If a jury does use the per diem approach, the jurors will come up with an appropriate dollar amount to assign per day of the plaintiff’s injury recovery. Typically, this dollar amount will match the plaintiff’s daily working wage. Then, the jury will multiply this amount by the number of days the victim will foreseeably experience pain and suffering from the injury or accident.
Say, for example, you were involved in a car accident and experienced a fractured arm as a result. You wore a cast for six weeks and took pain pills each day to alleviate your suffering. Even after your cast is off, you continue to experience pain for another month, for a total of 75 days of suffering. Say you make $35,000 a year—approximately $95 per day. Your per diem settlement would be around $7,2000.
Catastrophic injuries are generally worth more than minor injuries in Texas. If you or a loved one has life-changing or permanent personal injuries, your pain and suffering damages may be higher than those of a victim of a minor accident. Wrongful death claims can also involve higher multipliers and compensatory awards. A jury may choose to use the multiplier method, per diem method or no method at all to calculate a pain and suffering award. Although it is possible to seek compensation solely for pain and suffering in Texas, most personal injury claims combine a pain and suffering demand with economic damages as well. This can lead to maximum compensation for the full extent of your damages after a preventable accident.
If you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be wondering about the recourse for the parties responsible or wondering how to pay for your medical bills. The Attorneys at Aaron Herbert are skilled at negotiating settlements that are fair, given the extent of your pain and suffering. To start your personal injury claim today, contact our office for a free case evaluation. We offer our services on a contingency-fee basis, so there’s no risk to you.