How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in Washington State Personal Injury Cases?
In a personal injury case, pain and suffering is the legal term for the part of the settlement that compensates the victim for the physical and emotional distress caused by an injury. Some examples of pain and suffering damages include depression, loss of enjoyment of life, limitations on activity and chronic pain.
One of the many advantages of hiring a personal injury attorney to help with a personal injury claim is their help calculating a dollar value for your pain and suffering. The injury lawyer factors in a settlement range that is most likely to be offered in negotiations or in a jury award. This information gives the plaintiff a good idea of what compensation they can expect for their pain and suffering from a reasonable offer.
If you have a personal injury claim, you may be wondering how damages for pain and suffering are calculated in Washington State. The short answer is that there is no legal requirement to calculate these damages in a particular way. In practice, however, juries often use guidelines and general conditions to come up with a number.
How much is pain and suffering worth in Washington State personal injury cases?
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.
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.
A jury will usually take into account the severity of the damages rather than or in addition to using the multiplier method to calculate pain and suffering. Just because one injury costs the same amount to treat as another, doesn’t mean that they cause equal distress. Specifically, they will attempt to answer the question about the effect the injuries are having and will continue to have on the plaintiff. For example, burns covering the face, arms and torso will be significantly more distressing than burns covering the right leg and foot because they will be impossible to hide.
How is pain and suffering proved?
No settlement will be granted unless it can be proved that pain and suffering occurred as a direct result of the accident caused by the negligence of the defendant. Personal injury lawyers build a case by gathering all relevant information, including medical transcripts. They also interview witnesses and hire expert witnesses as needed to prove their client’s case. The information gathered is used to negotiate a fair settlement. If a fair settlement is not offered, then the attorney will represent you at trial where a jury will determine liability and damages.
Seek the help of a personal injury attorney
If you or a loved one was injured because of the negligence of another, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights. 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!