As part of any car accident compensation claim, a driver’s injuries will often entail some degree of pain of suffering. While other injuries and losses, such as lost income, medical bills, and property damage to vehicles, are easily calculated based on documentable financial figures, calculating pain and suffering is a much more subjective process. In light the difficulty in assessing pain and suffering, which fall under the category of general damages in personal injury claims, most insurance companies have taken a uniform, albeit still subjective, approach to settling pain and suffering claims alongside other damages in a car accident compensation claim.
How Insurance Companies Value Pain and Suffering
In short, the overwhelming majority of car accident injury claims are settled by insurance companies representing liable drivers. The insurance company will take the following approach when calculating a potential settlement figure in a car accident case:
- First, all special damages are calculated. Special damages, otherwise known as economic damages or pecuniary damages, include financially documentable items, such as medical bills, lost income, rehabilitation, and any future costs likely to be incurred involving medical treatment or rehabilitation.
- Second, the insurance company takes the amount determined in the special damages category, less the lost income figure, and applies a multiplier of one and a half (1.5) through ten (10) to calculate general damages. General damages, otherwise known as non-economic or non-pecuniary damages, will likely include claims for pain, suffering, discomfort, loss of mobility, disability, disfigurement, and other losses incurred by a driver without a quantifiable dollar amount attached.
- Third, the insurance company must then determine what multiplier to apply to the special damages. The process, which can be highly subjective and is only a starting point for negotiations, will be based on the perceived severity and invasiveness of the injuries sustained by a driver. For example, whiplash claims and other injuries with relatively minor or short periods of pain and suffering incur a multiplier of one and a half (1.5) or two (2), while other cases, such as those involving serious burns, disability, or paralysis may incur a multiplier upwards of five (5) to even ten (10).
- Finally, the insurance company adds together the specials, the lost income, and the assessment of general damages into one final figure. This figure ultimately becomes a potential settlement offer made by the insurance company, which a driver is free to negotiate or dispute.
Getting Legal Help with Car Accident Compensation Claims
As mentioned above, a driver is not obligated to accept any settlement offer made by an insurance company, and in reality, most car accident claims involve offers and counter offers until both parties reach a consensus. As part of the litigation process, a driver will greatly benefit from the insight and representation of a car accident lawyer.