What are Pain and Suffering Damages In a Car Accident Case?

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

A big chunk of recovery in car accident cases is often payments for pain and suffering, commonly referred to as general or non-economic damages. This is in contrast to economic damages which represent monetary losses suffered in an accident, such as damages to a vehicle or medical expenses.

What Is Pain and Suffering?

Courts in California have recognized a slew of different types of pain and suffering injuries. They include:

  • Physical pain
  • Mental suffering
  • Emotional distress or depression
  • Anxiety, fear, or nervousness
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Physical impairment, such as paralysis or disfigurement
  • Inconvenience
  • Grief
  • Humiliation or embarrassment
  • Susceptibility to future harm or injury
  • Shortened life expectancy
  • Mortification
  • Shock
  • Indignity

In short, pain and sufferings is any type physical pain or emotional trauma caused by the accident. See also CACI No. 3905A. Additionally, an award or settlement in an accident may not only include past but also future pain and suffering since some injuries last for a lifetime. For example, a car collision victim that loses a limb may be able to recover for all the physical pain and emotional trauma for the rest of her life.

How to Prove Pain and Suffering?

Even though pain and suffering is subjective in nature, a personal injury victim must prove them in order to receive compensation. The following are some methods of establishing it:

  • The testimony of the car accident victim discussing daily pain and trauma, its duration, and location. It is customary to keep a detailed log or diary regarding such physical pain or emotional trauma. Such a diary may be referenced at trial to show the jury the extent of such mental and physical suffering.
  • Medical evidence which will corroborate and support the injured person’s testimony. This may include medical records and the treating physicians testimony.
  • Testimony from relatives and friends regarding the injured person’s pain or emotional trauma since the accident. This is especially helpful in catastrophic cases to show that the victim can no longer engage in the same type of activities or enjoyment as before the accident.
  • A “Day in the Life” video depicting a typical day in the injured person’s life. Such a video shows their physical and mental struggles and limitations as a result of the accident.

How is Pain and Suffering Valued?

The law does not have a formula or a set standard for determining the value of pain and suffering. The only limitation imposed is that the the amount be reasonable. Once the injured party has presented its evidence regarding pain and suffering,it is then entirely up to the jury’s subjective discretion to determine the actual amount of pain and suffering to award based on the evidence and common sense.

In pre-litigation settlements where a lawsuit is not filed, insurance companies use a multiplier which ranges anywhere from 1.5 to 5. The multiplier number is then multiplied by the gross economic damages, such as property damage and medical bills, to calculate pain and suffering. The multiplier will vary from case to case and it largely depends on the severity of the injuries and the recovery period, hence this is where meticulous record keeping of day-to-day struggles become important. A multiplier of 3 is the most common one used by adjusters, but in rare cases it can go as high as 6 or 7 depending on the severity of the injuries. So the better records you have about your loss of quality of life, the higher the multiplier.

If you’ve been involved in an accident, give us a call so we can help you protect your rights and guide you through the process.

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