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How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated in a Car Accident Case?

October 30, 2023

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Pain and suffering, also known as non-economic damages, may be awarded in a car accident case to compensate the injured party for physical and emotional distress caused by the accident. Physical and emotional distress that can qualify for pain and suffering damages include:

  • Physical pain
  • Mental and emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Disfigurement or scarring
  • Loss of independence
  • Loss of companionship, support, and intimacy

Although pain and suffering damages may be awarded simultaneously with economic damages (i.e., medical bills, lost wages, and vehicle repair costs), they're considered a separate type of damages.

Calculating how much money a car accident victim deserves for their pain and suffering can be complex and somewhat subjective. There is no exact formula used for all car accident claims involving pain and suffering damages, and calculating payment often depends on various factors, including the severity of victims' injuries, their impact on victims' lives, and the specific circumstances of the crashes.

Here are some common methods used to calculate pain and suffering in a car accident case:

Multiplier Method

One common approach is to calculate pain and suffering as a multiple of the economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.). The multiplier typically ranges from 1.5 to 5, with the average multiplier being 3. More severe injuries and greater emotional distress often warrant a higher multiplier. If the economic damages amount to $20,000 and the multiplier is 3, the pain and suffering award would be $60,000.

Per Diem (Daily Rate) Method 

This method involves assigning a daily rate for the pain and suffering experienced by the injured party. The daily rate is then multiplied by the number of days the victim spent recovering from their accident. This method is more precise when the duration of pain and suffering is well-documented.

Precedent Established by Similar Cases

Attorneys and insurance adjusters often refer to similar car accident cases to determine an appropriate pain and suffering award. They may look at verdicts and settlements in cases with comparable injuries and circumstances. For example, if a Cleveland, Ohio, car accident victim who became partially paralyzed during their crash was awarded $200,000 for their pain and suffering, future crash victims who also become partially paralyzed may be awarded similar amounts.

Expert Testimony

Sometimes, expert witnesses such as medical professionals or psychologists may be called upon to provide testimony about the extent of the victim's pain and suffering. Their professional opinion can help establish the value of non-economic damages by clarifying to juries exactly what the victims are experiencing in terms of daily pain, immobility, and reduced quality of life.

Documentation and Evidence

Strong documentation of car accident-related injuries, medical treatment, and the overall impact of the crash on the victim's daily life can significantly influence the amount of money they receive in pain and suffering damages. This may include medical records, photographs, daily journaling, and witness statements, which can all paint a clearer picture of how the crash negatively impacted their life.

Personal Statements about Reduced Quality of Life 

The impact of their crash-related injuries on the victim's quality of life, such as an inability to participate in hobbies, partake in social activities, and enjoy companionship and intimacy in personal relationships, can be considered when calculating pain and suffering. In addition to expert testimony, victims are the best source for describing how their injuries have impacted and impaired their lives.

Negotiation by Lawyers 

Skilled negotiation by attorneys and the tactics employed by both sides during settlement talks or a trial can affect the final pain and suffering award. Unfortunately, because pain and suffering are more subjective than economic damages like medical bills and lost wages, not all attorneys push for their clients to get full compensation for their non-economic damages. However, no car accident claim is complete without considering the day-to-day and emotional impact of the crash on the victim. This is why it is so important to choose the right Ohio personal injury firm to take your case.

Pain and Suffering Damages Are Sometimes Capped in Ohio

No matter how pain and suffering is calculated in a car accident case in Ohio, the total amount of money a victim can receive is capped. Ohio limits victims using the following two rules:

  • $250,000, OR
  • Three times the economic damages up to a maximum of $350,000 per person and $500,000 per accident

Note, however, that there is NO cap on pain and suffering damages if the accident resulted in a catastrophic injury such as permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of a limb/loss of the usage of a limb, blindness, or any other injury that prevents a victim from caring for themselves.

Our Ohio Car Accident Lawyers Take Pain and Suffering Damages Seriously

Too often, other lawyers focus only on obtaining money for their clients' medical bills and lost wages when building their car accident claims. But at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we know that chronic pain and emotional difficulties can remain years after injuries have healed and victims have returned to work.

That's why we work hard to get our clients the money they're owed for the way their car accidents affect them physically, mentally, and emotionally today and years in the future. Contact our Ohio auto accident attorneys anytime for a free consultation. We know what you're going through, and we want to help.

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