How are Pain & Suffering Damages Calculated in California?

Pain and suffering damages are often what provide the largest payout to plaintiffs in personal injury claims in California. How are these types of damages calculated, though, if they are reflective of such abstract concepts?

Insurance companies are not bound by any rule that requires pain and suffering damages to be calculated in any particular way. Each company has its own method of calculating these types of damages, so it is important to work with a personal injury lawyer to ensure a lowball settlement is not inadvertently accepted.

Economic Damages Vs. Noneconomic Damages

Before diving into how pain and suffering damages are calculated, it is important to first understand the two main types of damages in an injury claim: economic and noneconomic.

If a damage can be clearly recorded on paper – like a receipt or bill – then it is an economic damage. The most common examples of economic damages in a personal injury or car accident claim are medical bills generated by the treatment the plaintiff receives to care for their injuries. Lost wages are also a common economic damage, except they are shown in how much less money the plaintiff earned in a given period after their accident.

If a damage cannot be tracked on paper, then it is a noneconomic damage. Abstract concepts like pain, suffering, loss of mobility, emotional scarring, mental trauma like anxiety or depression, lessened enjoyment of life, and embarrassment from a permanent disfigurement are all noneconomic damages. As can be expected, there are no clear price tags or costs to any of these types of damages, which begs the question again: How are noneconomic damages like pain and suffering calculated in California?

Multiplying the Real by the Abstract

One common method to calculate a fair amount of noneconomic damages is the multiplication method. The basic concept of this method is multiplying the total economic damages by a factor that increases or decreases depending on the severity of the claimant’s or plaintiff’s apparent or reported suffering.

For example, a truck accident victim accrues $50,000 worth of medical bills to treat their injuries. They do not suffer any permanent injuries, work from home to not miss any wages, and report being relatively unshaken after the crash. In such a case, the total economic damages they experienced – $50,000 – is multiplied by a factor of 2, bringing the noneconomic damage total to $100,000. Altogether, they would seek $150,000 in compensation from the responding insurance company.

In another example, a motorcycle accident victim becomes partially paralyzed in their crash, missing six months’ worth of work, and experiences chronic pain each day. The total of their medical bills, lost wages, and motorcycle replacement amounts to $100,000. The severity of the claimant’s pain and suffering is intense, so the multiplicative factor is chosen to be 9. The total compensation demand would be $1,000,000, with $100,000 in economic damages and $900,000 in noneconomic damages.

Each Day of Suffering is a Day of Pay

Another fairly common method used to calculate noneconomic damages is the “per diem” method, which means per day. A base-dollar figure is determined to reflect the claimant’s experienced daily suffering, and the total pain and suffering damages equal all of those days added together.

For example, a man suffers a second-degree burn injury after a defective toaster oven burst into flames while using it. He requires 100 days of medical treatment to complete skin grafts and rehabilitation. The base daily amount of pain and suffering damages are set at $1,000. The total of noneconomic damages demanded in this situation would be $100,000.

Do you need help calculating a fair amount of pain and suffering damages for your injury claim in Long Beach? Call The Law Offices of Jonathan D. Winters today by dialing (888) 495-0556 to begin.