What Is a Fair Amount for Pain and Suffering in Georgia?

The Brown Firm

The Brown Firm

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at what pain and suffering means, how a personal injury lawyer can help you calculate pain and suffering damages, and challenges you might face in successfully negotiating a fair settlement or winning at trial.

Personal Injury Damages 101: What’s Your Case Worth?

When you work with a personal injury lawyer, one of their top priorities will be calculating your damages. But what are “damages” exactly? Attorneys break them up into three categories:

  • Economic damages: compensation for your financial losses, such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage.
  • Non-economic damages: compensation for softer losses, like emotional distress, pain, and suffering.
  • Punitive damages: sometimes called “special damages” in Georgia, judges and juries award them to punish a wrongdoer and discourage similar acts in the future.

Then, based on the facts of your case, the amount of insurance coverage that applies to your claims, and the strength of your legal arguments, your personal injury attorney will issue a settlement demand letter that includes compensation for all your possible damages.

When calculating how much a negligent party owes the person they hurt after a negligent act, some factors are obvious and straightforward. For example, if you have $100,000 in medical expenses and another $20,000 in lost wages from being unable to work, you’ll probably want to be reimbursed for every penny.

However, quantifying your non-economic damages is a lot more difficult.

What Is Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering damages are a form of non-economic damages, meaning there’s no specific dollar value attached to them. This is in contrast to economic damages, which includes things like medical bills, lost wages and reduced earning capacity, and cost of household services.

In a legal context, pain and suffering refers to not only to physical pain and physical injuries, but also the mental anguish that results from those injuries.

For example, chronic pain, constant headaches, or a physical impairment (such as loss of a limb) would qualify as physical pain and suffering, while depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, mood swings, cognitive impairments, and other forms of mental pain would be considered emotional pain and suffering.

How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?

Because pain and suffering are much more subjective than existing or projected medical expenses, there’s much more variability in terms of how attorneys, insurance companies, and juries value them. There are no specific rules or official methods, either, so insurers will look to past cases, rules of thumb, or even software algorithms to arrive at a dollar figure for a pain and suffering claim.

That said, there are a couple of common approaches.

The “Multiplier Method”

Often, insurance companies will use a multiplier or factor method for calculating pain and suffering damages, based on the nature of an injury and the amount of economic damages you suffered. The general idea with this method is that the more medical treatment you end up needing, the more pain and suffering you’ll generally experience.

For example, let’s say that you were paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a car accident that wasn’t your fault. That would be a truly catastrophic, permanent, life-altering injury. To calculate pain and suffering damages in this scenario, your lawyer might take the total amount of your economic damages and multiply it several times over.

On the other hand, suppose you suffered a few broken bones and have some subtle, but permanent scarring. While these are definitely still serious injuries responsible for meaningful pain and suffering, you’re also expected to make a full recovery within a period of several months to a year. In this case, the insurance company would use a smaller multiplier.

And if your personal injury only resulted in one or two doctor visits and no significant or lasting physical or emotional repercussions that meaningfully impact your life, you may receive very little pain and suffering compensation.

The “Per Diem” Method

Under the per diem method, pain and suffering damages are calculated on a daily basis, typically by counting the number of days that pass between the accident and your maximum medical improvement, then multiplying that by a certain daily rate.

Unlike the multiplier method, the per diem method equates pain and suffering with the amount of time it takes to recover, rather than the financial cost or the amount of medical treatment you need.

The daily rate that the insurance company uses will typically be closely linked to your daily wage, although it can (and should) be higher for particularly serious injuries. (Your attorney should advocate for the most compensation possible, highlighting factors that support your case.)

However, the per diem method can break down in situations where your injuries leave you with permanent disabilities that continue to cause meaningful pain and suffering even after reaching maximum medical improvement.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Your Insurance Adjuster Determines Your Settlement Offer

Should I Use an Online Pain and Suffering Calculator?

Many websites offer a personal injury settlement calculator to estimate how much your case is likely worth, including pain and suffering. While this can provide a (very) rough estimate as a starting point, we generally don’t recommend you use them.

The simple fact of the matter is that every case is unique, and there’s no substitute for getting an expert opinion from an experienced personal injury lawyer. A huge number of factors go into determining a fair pain and suffering settlement—far more than you can include in a simple online calculator.

Getting a Fair Settlement Amount for Pain and Suffering Can Be Tough

The unfortunate truth is that, when it comes to pain and suffering, getting the insurance company to offer you a fair settlement for your personal injury claim can be extremely challenging.

There are many reasons why this is the case:

Assigning Value to Intangible Losses Isn’t Straightforward

Even if you and the insurance company fundamentally agree on the nature of your pain and suffering (which is not at all guaranteed; see below), you may be very far apart on how much to value these physical and emotional injuries. While both sides can look to past cases and awards for guidance, there isn’t always an obvious precent—each case is unique.

It Can Be Difficult to Prove Pain and Suffering

It’s very likely that the insurance company will not simply accept your account of how your injuries are affecting your life. Instead, they will probably try to argue that you are making up or exaggerating your symptoms, or that they are not limiting your activities as much as you say they are.

This is especially true for mental anguish and other emotional, psychological, or cognitive issues you may be experiencing after the incident—particularly conditions which are difficult to see from the outside or have practical effects that are not well understood by the general population.

Proving that you’re dealing with anxiety, for example, or that you’ve experienced mood or personality changes that keep you from working or reduce your quality of life is typically not a simple matter. It may require:

  • Thorough medical records from physicians, mental health professionals, and other medical experts.
  • Documentation of your subjective personal experiences, such as personal communications or journal/diary entries that describe your level on the pain scale, physical or emotional challenges you’re dealing with (such as not being able to care for yourself or feeling sad all the time), and other relevant information.
  • Photographs of your injuries at different points in your recovery.
  • Extensive witness testimony from family, friends, and other close associates who know you well, both before and after the accident.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Do I Prove My Pain and Suffering After A Car Accident?

The Insurance Company Is Not on Your Side

Always remember that no matter how friendly a claims adjuster might seem while speaking with you, the insurance company’s main focus is not on ensuring you are well cared for. They are looking to make your case go away as quickly and cheaply as they can.

If there is any doubt over the existence, nature, or severity of your pain and suffering, they will try to exploit it. And even if they don’t openly question your symptoms, they’ll still try to offer you the lowest settlement value they think you’re likely to take—rather than one that accurately reflects the true value of your personal injury claim.

RELATED ARTICLE: Should I Take the First Settlement Offer in My Injury Case?

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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