When car accident victims in Texas and around the country file lawsuits against negligent motorists, they can ask the court to award them both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages like medical costs and lost income are usually fairly easy to prove with paystubs, hospital bills and other documents, but quantifying non-economic damages like pain and suffering is more difficult. Pain and suffering is a broad term that covers emotional distress as well as physical pain caused by accident injuries, and not every person suffers equally after a crash.
The multiplier method
Some insurance companies and personal injury attorneys use what is known as the multiplier method to calculate compensation for pain and suffering. This is done by taking the economic damages and multiplying them by up to five. In cases involving extreme pain and suffering, a multiplier of as high as seven may be used. Factors that could be considered when determining the pain and suffering multiplier include:
- The seriousness of the injuries
- The time it took for the victim to recover
- The discomfort the victim endured during their recovery
- Permanent scars or disability
- The defendant’s degree of negligence
Proving pain and suffering
Photographs of cuts, bruises and other injuries are often used to prove pain and suffering in a motor vehicle accident lawsuit, and the plaintiff may explain to juries how much pain they endured and how long it lasted. They could also describe the emotional trauma they suffered as a result of their injuries.
When a high pain and suffering multiplier is used and the damages being sought are significant, doctors may be called upon to help juries understand the amount of pain involved by comparing the suffering of the plaintiff to discomfort they could have experienced in their own lives.
Victims of catastrophic accidents that result in serious long-term (or even lifelong) injuries are often good candidates for pain and suffering compensation. Longer recoveries result in more pain and suffering, which increases the likelihood of receiving higher pain and suffering damages.
An arbitrary approach
The pain and suffering multiplier has been criticized for being an arbitrary method that reduces physical discomfort and emotional trauma to a simple mathematical calculation. A standardized approach can help ensure that insurance claims are handled promptly and lawsuit damages are awarded in a consistent manner. With that said, there are other ways to determine pain and suffering damage in a personal injury case, and the amount awarded will differ from case to case. Accident victims should always consult an experienced injury attorney before moving forward with their claim, to be sure they are receiving a fair outcome.