Did you recently get hurt in a car accident? If so, the immediate aftermath of medical check-ups, missed work, and insurance calls might feel like a blur. Beyond these tangible issues, you might experience an invisible but no less consequential result: pain and suffering. And you can seek compensation for this subjective loss by filing a car accident injury claim.

But how do you put a price on sleepless nights, aches that interrupt your day, or the emotional weight of trauma? While no amount of money could truly compensate you for the distress and disruption the accident caused, you need a car accident lawyer who understands how insurers and courts approach this key component of injury claims.

Here’s what a lawyer might tell you about calculating pain and suffering after a car accident.

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What Is Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering has a specific meaning in the realm of personal injury law. It refers to the physical pain and emotional distress a person experiences due to an injury resulting from another party’s negligence. This physical and psychological anguish can encompass both present discomfort and future hardships that will likely arise from the injury.

Acknowledging pain and suffering is essential in many car accident cases. Getting compensated for pain and suffering ensures that the aggrieved party receives recognition for the full spectrum of hardships they endure.

Common Crash Injuries That Result in Pain and Suffering

Beyond the immediate physical harm, crash injuries often inflict significant emotional and psychological burdens. Such traumatic events can lead to prolonged periods of pain and distress.

Here are some common crash injuries that can result in pain and suffering:

  • Whiplash: A common crash injury affecting the neck that often results from sudden jerking motions in rear-end collisions. Whiplash can cause lingering neck pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI): Concussions and other TBIs can result from sharp blows to the head in traffic collisions. Symptoms might include headaches, cognitive difficulties, mood changes, and memory problems.
  • Broken Bones: Fractures, especially in major areas like the pelvis, legs, or arms, can cause prolonged pain and reduced mobility. In some cases, recovery from fractures requires surgeries and lengthy physiotherapy.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries: Damage to the spinal cord can result in paralysis, reduced mobility, and chronic pain. The ramifications of a spinal cord injury are often life-altering and immensely distressing.
  • Burns: Often resulting from car fires or contact with hot surfaces, accident-related burns can cause severe pain, potential infections, and lasting scars. All of these consequences can have profound emotional effects.
  • Lacerations and Abrasions: Deep cuts or scrapes can result in significant blood loss, scarring, and infections, requiring painful stitches or surgeries.
  • Internal Injuries: Damage to internal organs, often undetectable immediately after a crash, can lead to severe complications that require surgeries and long recovery periods.

How Many Crash Victims Experience Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering look different for everyone because they’re highly subjective, so it’s difficult to track their prevalence. One significant mental health outcome we commonly associate with pain and suffering is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A recent meta-analysis that pooled data from 15 studies of 6,804 crash survivors indicated that 22.25 percent of these survivors develop PTSD.

The prevalence of PTSD after car accidents is particularly notable in comparison to the rates of PTSD resulting from other traumatic events. Earthquake survivors, for instance, have a slightly higher PTSD rate of 23.66 percent.

But survivors of floods (15.74 percent) and medical emergencies like strokes and transient ischemic attacks (13 percent) have much lower rates. This underscores just how traumatic many traffic accidents are for survivors.

Diving deeper, another study assessing the incidence of PTSD symptoms after traffic accidents yielded several striking results. Of the participants in this study, 46.5 percent experienced at least three severe PTSD-related symptoms following a car accident. The most common severe symptom was the recurrence of disturbing memories, thoughts, or images from the accident.

A staggering 70.2 percent of participants indicated that the accident had an extreme effect on their work or educational pursuits, and 51.9 percent reported severe disruptions in social functioning. Some participants also engaged in substance abuse, a common trauma response, with 7.9 percent reporting alcohol dependence and others indicating hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption.

Factors That Influence Pain and Suffering Compensation

Several factors come into play when pursuing compensation for pain and suffering resulting from a car accident. Depending on the circumstances, these factors could either increase or decrease the amount of compensation available to you.

Injury Severity

Crash injuries vary widely in severity. Some might be minor, while others are life-altering. Catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, or amputations tend to command higher compensation. The reasoning is simple: these injuries profoundly affect quality of life, often necessitating lifelong care, adjustments, and lifestyle changes.

Recovery Duration

An extended recovery period often correlates with prolonged suffering. Let’s say an injury requires months or even years of rehabilitation or results in permanent disabilities. In that case, the extended recovery timeline and associated challenges could factor into pain and suffering compensation. Longer recoveries disrupt normal life and can lead to emotional distress due to the protracted healing process.

Medical Expenses

Documentation of surgeries, consultations, medications, and therapies you require after a car accident serves as quantifiable proof of the severity of your injuries. Medical records and statements from your doctors can also indicate how long they anticipate you will experience the consequences of your crash injuries.

Effects on Daily Life

An injury’s aftermath can ripple through every facet of your daily life. Activities you used to take for granted, like hobbies or routine tasks, might become challenging or even impossible.

The degree to which an injury affects your ability to engage in and enjoy daily life, personal passions, or family time can significantly affect pain and suffering compensation.

Emotional and Psychological Trauma

Physical scars are evident, but the emotional toll of a car accident can run deeper. Persistent feelings of anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) bear testament to the psychological impact of the accident.

The long-term ramifications of your emotional distress, including therapy and counseling needs, play a key role in determining pain and suffering compensation post-accident.

Future Medical Needs

Sometimes, your medical journey doesn’t end with initial treatments. If you got seriously hurt, chronic conditions, future surgeries, or long-term therapies might loom on the horizon. Accounting for these future medical procedures and the associated emotional burdens is essential for ensuring fair compensation.

Age and Overall Health

A young individual might face long-term consequences from an accident with decades of life ahead. This potential disruption to their personal and professional future could amplify the pain and suffering compensation they are due, given the extended effects on their life’s potential.

Witness Testimony

The perspectives of third-party witnesses can validate a victim’s account. Their objective recounting of the accident’s severity and the evident pain and suffering of a victim could bolster the victim’s case. Strong, credible testimonies add another layer of authenticity and gravity to a claim.

How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering Compensation?

When seeking compensation for pain and suffering after a car accident, two primary methods come into play: the multiplier method and the per diem method. Both aim to quantify the intangible effects of pain and suffering and provide appropriate financial support for the subjective consequences of the accident.

Both methods come with their own merits and challenges. It’s important for you and your lawyer to weigh the specifics of your situation and choose the method that best accounts for your unique experience.

Multiplier Method

This approach starts by adding up the measurable out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to the accident. These expenses encompass medical bills, physiotherapy costs, medication expenses, and any income you lose during the recovery period. Once you calculate this sum, you multiply it by a specific number (a multiplier).

This multiplier is not arbitrary. It varies depending on various factors, such as the severity and nature of your injuries, how long you take to recover, and any long-term implications of your condition. For instance, a mild injury, like a minor sprain that doesn’t substantially disrupt daily life, might warrant a smaller multiplier. A debilitating injury that causes permanent disability and drastically alters your lifestyle might call for a higher multiplier.

The strength of this method lies in its simplicity, but its challenges come from the subjective nature of choosing an appropriate multiplier. Justifying the chosen multiplier often becomes a focal point of negotiations with insurance companies in pain and suffering claims.

Per Diem Approach

“Per diem” is a Latin phrase that means “per day.” The per diem method involves assigning a specific monetary value for each day a victim suffers from their injuries. Often, this rate matches the actual daily income you could earn if you hadn’t been in the accident, representing the daily loss you undergo while you are stuck recovering.

In most cases, per diem payments accumulate from the date of the accident until you reach what medical professionals deem “maximum medical improvement.” When you reach this stage, it means your doctor believes your condition is unlikely to continue improving with additional treatment.

While the per diem approach offers a more granular perspective on suffering, it does come with certain drawbacks. Determining a fair daily rate is a common point of contention with this method. Additionally, establishing a clear end date, especially in cases where injuries have lingering effects, is often subject to debate.

What Evidence Can You Use To Prove Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering claims require a wide range of evidence to paint a comprehensive picture of the trauma resulting from the accident.

Here is some key evidence that could bolster your claim for pain and suffering:

  • Medical Records: These records detail the nature and extent of your injuries, treatments, and prognosis. Medical records can show the physical effects of the accident and highlight emotional or psychological challenges, especially if you receive care from mental health professionals.
  • Photographs: Pictures of injuries, the accident scene, or the damaged vehicle can provide compelling visual evidence. Photos you take over time can also demonstrate the healing process or the persistence of injuries.
  • Video Evidence: In some cases, video footage from surveillance cameras or personal devices can capture the accident. This evidence offers a real-time view of crash severity and resulting distress.
  • Personal Journals: Keep a daily or regular diary detailing the pain levels, emotional challenges, and disruptions to daily life you experience after the accident. Journal entries can offer a vivid portrayal of the ongoing suffering you endure.
  • Testimony from Friends and Family: Your loved ones can provide personal insights into the changes in behavior, mood, or daily capabilities you experience after the accident. Their observations can underscore the extent of the effects the crash has on your life.
  • Proof of Therapy: Records from therapy sessions, whether physical or psychological, can substantiate your claim by showing your ongoing efforts to heal and the challenges you face during recovery.
  • Employment Records: These can demonstrate missed work days, reduced hours, or impaired job performance due to the accident. Any changes in employment status or earning capacity resulting from the accident could strengthen your pain and suffering claim.
  • Expert Testimony: Medical professionals or psychologists could provide expert perspectives on your injuries, your expected recovery trajectory, and the potential long-term effects on your quality of life.
  • Proof of Medication: Prescription records or lists of over-the-counter (OTC) medications you used to alleviate pain or associated symptoms can highlight the tangible steps you had to take to manage your suffering.
  • Effect on Daily Activities: Evidence of disruptions to routine activities, hobbies, or events – like canceling a vacation or quitting a cherished hobby – can further emphasize the toll your injuries took on your everyday life.
Jacque Hawk, Car Accident Attorney in Augusta
Jacque Hawk, Augusta Car Accident Lawyer

Having a personal injury lawyer by your side after a car accident can be a game-changer for your compensation claim. A seasoned attorney can anticipate the tactics insurance companies employ to minimize your claim and effectively demand compensation that reflects the true value of your pain and suffering.