Am I Entitled to Pain and Suffering as Part of my Car Accident Settlement?
Yes, typically a car accident settlement includes compensation for lost wages, medical expenses for injuries sustained in the accident and pain and suffering.
The best way to figure out what your car accident claim is worth is to speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as you are able after the accident. He or she can discuss your legal rights and negotiate with the insurance agency with no up-front cost to you.
How do insurance companies determine the value of pain and suffering in a car accident settlement?
Because pain and suffering is a bit of an intangible and there are no rules around how to calculate it, insurance companies rely on the severity of the injuries and various different methods to reach a number. “Minor” car accidents are usually associated with “minor” injuries such as whiplash so they are associated with smaller pain and suffering settlements.
Traditionally, the two most common methods to calculate pain and suffering were the multiplier method and the per diem method, though the multiplier method has gone out of common use in the last 10-30 years.
The multiplier method multiplies medical bills by a certain number. It used to be common for insurance adjusters to automatically multiply medical bills by 2 to come to a value. For example, if your medical bills were $5,000 they would be multiplied by 2 to get $10,000 plus $5,000 for medical bills for a total settlement of $15,000. Personal injury lawyers recognized this as a “low-ball” tactic and fought against it to secure their clients a fair settlement.
Right now, insurance adjusters look at the total amount of the medical bills to reach a settlement offer. They strongly differentiate by the type of the medical bill incurred. They put very little weight on chiropractic, massage therapy, and alternative forms of treatment, but rather focus on emergency room bills, primary care doctor expenses, imaging, specialist referrals, etc.
If you bear partial fault for the accident, there was no damage to the vehicle or if the injuries were minor, you can expect the insurance adjuster to reduce your pain and suffering offer.
The reality is that for many car accidents, this new method undervalues pain and suffering and the only way to get a reasonable settlement may be with the help of a car accident attorney.
The daily rate method is used by some insurance agencies and personal injury attorneys to place a value on pain and suffering. Under this method, an amount of money is assigned to each day or week that a person suffers from injury after a car accident. For example, if a person is in pain and receiving treatment for injuries incurred in a car accident for three months before they feel back to normal then a daily value of $200 might be assigned. $200 multiplied by 90 days is $18,000.
It can be useful to come to a final valuation for pain and suffering by using both methods and then adjusting up or down based on the extenuating factors such as time needed to recover, the percentage of fault assigned to each driver, aggravating factors and the severity of the injuries.
It is important to know that insurance companies will not pay for what they consider to be excessive medical care. The best way to avoid this is to schedule an appointment with your general practitioner after the accident to obtain a prescription for care such as chiropractic and massage. The care providers will then follow the prescription and reduce your risk of being stuck with unpaid medical bills.
Once you have identified the value of your pain and suffering you are ready to write your demand letter.
Seek the help of a car accident attorney
If you or a loved one is suffering from an injury as a result of an accident or error caused by the negligence of another, you have enough on your plate. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a lawyer. Call the personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!