How Much Is Your Pain And Suffering Really Worth?
Those who have been injured in an accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit can attest to the challenges they face with their pursuit of receiving fair compensation for their injuries. The actual physical injury, treatment and recuperation is often just the tip of the iceberg. There is the emotional trauma and the mental stress imposed on the other areas of life; relationship challenges, work-related problems, and the corresponding financial shortfalls. No one plans for these setbacks and most often they just want to be made whole in every aspect of their life, to get back to where they were before the accident. As one moves through the legal process, it can seem daunting. One of the most critical elements to the process is to build a case for compensation for the pain and suffering experienced by the victim.
While the attorney works hard to prepare a water-tight case, they’ll use medical records and bills, doctor’s testimonies, accident reports, witness reports, and any other relevant information. The defendant’s insurance company will then review all of the information presented and work toward a settlement offer, including an amount for pain and suffering. But here’s the rub. How in the world does an insurance company put a value on your pain and suffering, when they clearly don’t know how much pain and suffering you’re really struggling with?
It may sound absurd, but the amount you’ll likely be offered as compensation for your pain and suffering will be determined by some people in an office far, far away. They’ve never met you, nor talked to you, just looked at a profile of you and your medical records and other pertinent information from a file they received. So, they’ll use their specific methodology and put a number to the value of your case. Most instances there will be multiple offers beginning win a first. If you’ve received an initial settlement offer from the defendant’s insurance company, you were probably shocked at how low it was. It can be sickening. Unfortunately, it is how the game is played.
Pain and Suffering is More Than Physical
Pain and Suffering is the legal term that encompasses all of the injuries a person may have suffered due to an accident. Pain and Suffering includes physical pain as well as emotional and mental injuries. Pain and suffering damages can be small, or very large depending on the extent and duration of the diagnosed ailments.
Can You Prove it?
Any claim for damages to compensate for pain and suffering must be proven. This is why it is so critical to keep records as soon as you (or someone you know) can after the accident occurs. Proof, can come in the form of doctor’s records of your diagnosis and periodic notes from ongoing treatment visits, photographs, personal journals recording your condition, treatment and progress, and testimony from family and friends regarding their observations as to how the accident has impacted your life. In short, proof can be anything that supports your case, and the more documentation you have the stronger your case will be.
The Pain and Suffering Calculator
There is no single method that insurance companies use to calculate the value of your pain and suffering. All of the proof you gather to support your case is taken into consideration when determining your award for pain and suffering. However, the proof is often subjective to the insurance company, meaning just because you believe its justified, the insurance company may not agree. For example, if the treatment you sought can be determined excessive specific to your injury, the insurance company may only consider a portion of those treatment costs.
The methodology can be as simple as a “per day” amount where the company just calculates the number of days it takes for the injured party to recover multiplied by a daily dollar amount based on the severity and type of the injuries, to a highly sophisticated algorithm (computer program) that takes into consideration many variables such as type(s) of injuries, multiple injuries, treatment types, expected time for recovery, etc., to determine the financial compensation for pain and suffering. Somewhere in the middle is a method whereby the insurance company literally multiplies the medical bills, lost wages, and possibly other factors by a number that represents the severity of the injuries (maybe between one and ten).
It’s A Negotiation
As mentioned earlier, it is common for the insurance company to offer you a much smaller settlement award than what you expect. Even so, it is difficult not to be offended and angry. You will always believe your pain and suffering to be worth far more than what the insurance company thinks, and you should. You don’t have to simply take what is first offered, and this is where your attorney earns their fee.
Your personal injury attorney should have considerable experience negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of their clients. The really good attorneys, knowing which insurance company they’re negotiating with, will have knowledge of which type of method the particular insurance company uses to calculate the value of pain and suffering. With this insight, they can best rebut any excuse the defendant’s insurance company may present as support for an initial offer, and present a strong case for a more must and fair award.
Pain and Suffering is a very subjective topic with many theories and opinions surrounding what is fair compensation. If you’re working with an Attorney, you should have a frank discussion regarding his experiences with various insurance companies and his strategy to get you the largest award possible. Most often the final award still won’t seem enough to fully compensate you for the ordeal, however the most you can do is to be educated on the process, the methodologies, and potential influences so you and your attorney can build the best case possible for a resolution strongly in your favor.