After an accident in which you were injured—whether a car accident, slip-and-fall or other accident—you may have a personal injury case against the person responsible. In a personal injury case, part of the settlement is for pain and suffering.
This term refers not only to physical pain, but to mental anguish, depression, and limits on your ability to engage in or enjoy your normal activities. Pain and suffering has no quantifiable monetary value, so insurance companies try to calculate one. But their values may not line up with your personal experience.
The Insurance Company’s Pain and Suffering Calculation
Without an objective way to put a dollar value on pain, insurance companies calculate settlement values by multiplying known monetary losses due to the accident, such as medical expenses and lost wages, by a multiplier. They do not publicize how they determine their multipliers but appear to assign larger multipliers to more serious injuries. Different insurance companies may use different multipliers for similar injuries.
A serious problem with this method is that not everyone experiences the same injury in the same way. One person may heal quickly, with minimal pain and no setbacks, while another may experience multiple complications, significant pain, and prolonged disability.
Negotiating Your Pain and Suffering Settlement
Because healing can be so variable after an accident, it is important that you not settle too early. If you do, you may get a smaller settlement than you should be entitled to.
To get what you deserve, do not settle until you have healed, and emphasize to the claims adjuster how the accident has affected your life, especially if any of the following apply:
- You are still receiving medical care, in pain, and/or unable to enjoy your life the way you used to.
- You cannot perform everyday activities, such as caring for yourself and going to work.
- You face long-term or even permanent inability to return to your previous activities.
- Your family has also suffered due to your injuries. For example, a spouse or child has had to help you with everyday tasks.
If some issues have resolved, emphasize how long they lasted. If it took months or years to get your life back, you deserve a larger settlement than if it only took a few weeks.
The law does not require insurance companies to make pain and suffering payments, but juries will often award them, and the amounts can be unpredictable. Therefore, you are more likely to get a fair settlement by convincing the adjuster of a few things:
- You are willing to go to trial
- The jury is likely to find you sympathetic
- The jury’s award plus trial expenses will cost the insurance company more than settling with you now
A personal injury lawyer can help you make this case convincingly.