Am I Entitled to Pain and Suffering as Part of my Car Accident Settlement?
Yes, typically a car accident settlement includes money 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?
Insurance companies use different methods to determine the value of pain and suffering. The two most common methods are the multiplier method and the per diem method.
The multiplier method multiplies economic damages for lost wages and medical bills by a certain number. It used to be common for personal injury lawyers to automatically multiply economic damages by 3 to come to a value. For example, if your medical bills were $5,000 and your lost wages were $2,000 you would ad them together and multiply $7,000 by 3 for a total of $21,000.
In the last several years, many insurance companies have stopped automatically agreeing to a multiple of 3 as a way to determine pain and suffering damages. The new way is to take economic damages and use a multiplier chosen through software programs. The idea is that a minor car accident would use a multiplier of 1 or 2 and a serious crash would use a multiplier of 3 or 4. The multiplier can go even higher if there were special circumstances such as the at-fault driver being drunk and for factors such as the need for multiple surgeries and lengthy recover time. On the flip side, 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 agency to use a lower multiplier to determine pain and suffering. The reality is that for many car accidents, this new method undervalues pain and suffering and you may need to get the help of a car accident attorney to receive a fair settlement.
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.
There does need to be a legitimate reason behind the daily value. For example, the daily value may be chosen based on the wage the injured person would have earned per day were it not for the accident.
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.
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 bigger 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!