In a personal injury case, damage awards are calculated based on three main factors: medical bills, loss of property, and pain and suffering. While the first two are very straightforward compensation, terms like “pain” and “suffering” are a little harder to quantify. Yet they are often undeniable consequences of an accident that need to be taken into account to achieve justice.
Pain and suffering are often described as either mental or physical, but they are often related. Physical suffering includes all the pain and discomfort associated with the injury, from all past, ongoing, and future treatment to loss of functioning or mobility. Someone who breaks their leg can cite difficult walking and longer commute times as an example of pain and suffering in their personal injury case.
This condition can also lead to anger or depression in some cases, which could constitute an additional count of mental suffering. Trauma induced during an accident and severe pain can manifest mentally in many ways, from loss of appetite or libido, difficulty sleeping, or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As we said before, “pain” and “suffering” are hard to quantify. There are no hard and fast rules for calculating an amount of money to compensate for these damages, but they are often directly proportionate to the rest of the award. For instance, many courts often apply a “multiplier”—usually between 1.5x and 4x—to the value of the claimant’s special damages to determine their pain and suffering award. But this is a rough heuristic that does not apply to all cases.
For better or worse, pain and suffering awards are granted largely on the credibility of the plaintiff. While medical and psychological evaluations can attest to this suffering to a certain extent, juries exercise their own judgment and sympathy in making these decisions.