How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?

You may face two types of losses if you get injured by someone else’s actions. First, you will likely have economic damages. These financial costs include your medical expenses and income losses. Second, you may also deal with non-economic damages. These losses are harder to quantify, but they involve all the ways your injuries affect your quality of life.

The pain and mental anguish you experience from an accident can affect your entire life. As a result, depending on the nature of your accident and the injuries you suffered, you may be able to seek significant compensation for your non-economic losses. Here is how pain and suffering damages are calculated in Georgia.

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

Pain and suffering losses have several names. Many insurers and lawyers refer to these losses as non-economic damages. Georgia’s statutes refer to them as general damages. However, all these terms capture the same concept.

Generally, non-economic losses affect your quality of life rather than costing you money directly. 

Non-economic damages include the following examples:

  • Physical pain
  • Mental suffering
  • Disability due to physical or cognitive limitations
  • Dismemberment, if you lost a body part
  • Disfigurement from injuries that alter your appearance

Some of these losses can have both financial and non-financial components, though. For example, pain may require medical treatment and pain medication. The associated costs qualify as economic losses.

However, pain also affects your comfort. It can prevent you from sleeping, or you might lose your independence because you cannot shop or drive. These are non-economic damages.

You can apply the same principles to mental and emotional injuries. The cost of counseling and therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a car accident qualifies as an economic loss. The panic attacks that prevent you from getting behind the wheel again qualify as a non-economic loss.

These types of damages have no inherent monetary value. You cannot place a value on a good night’s sleep or having a face without scars. Instead, you rely on the court to set a value on all the ways your life changed due to your injuries.

How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Quantified?

Typically, pain and suffering damages depend on the severity of your injuries. More severe injuries cause more profound losses. For example, losing a finger may affect your life less than losing a leg.

More severe injuries can also result in longer-lasting losses. For example, breaking a bone will cause pain and disable you for six to eight weeks. But it will usually not cause any permanent disabilities. Nerve damage, on the other hand, may cause permanent impairments and require surgical repair.

Your attorney can use your medical records to prove the severity of your injuries. But the extent of your harm will not automatically place a value on your losses. Your lawyer may hire an expert witness to analyze the impact of your injuries on your life and guide a jury in awarding non-economic compensation.

The touchstone is always a fair amount based on your losses. There is no one-size-fits-all pain and suffering calculator. Instead, experts use many methods to determine a fair amount, including the multiplier method and the per diem method.

Multiplier Method

In the multiplier method, the claims adjuster, judge, or jury assigns a multiplier based on the severity of your injuries. The multiplier ranges from 1.5 to 5.0, with larger multipliers associated with more severe injuries. Your non-economic damages equal the product of your economic damages and your multiplier.

For instance, suppose that you suffered a head injury in a motorcycle accident. If you have a concussion, you might get a relatively low multiplier of 2.0 since you will recover from your symptoms within a few months. The fact finder determines you had $10,000 in economic losses. Applying the multiplier, you will receive $20,000 for your non-economic damages.

Conversely, if you have permanent brain damage from a cerebral contusion, you might get a relatively high multiplier of 4.0. With this serious injury, you might have $200,000 in medical bills and wage losses. Using the multiplier, the fact finder calculates your total compensation as $1,000,000, with $200,000 in economic losses and $800,000 in pain and suffering.

Per Diem Method

The per diem method requires the fact finder to assign a daily cost of your losses. Again, the adjuster, judge, or jury must pick a fair number based on your injuries. Using the brain injury example, an appropriate number for a concussion might be $110 per day, whereas permanent brain damage might be worth $200 per day.

The fact finder then multiplies the per diem rate by the duration of your symptoms. You can see the difference by considering two pain and suffering settlement examples. For a concussion, you might experience symptoms for 90 days, resulting in non-economic losses of $9,900.

Conversely, for permanent brain damage, you will experience symptoms for the rest of your life. The fact finder multiplies your per diem rate by the number of days remaining in your life expectancy. If your life expectancy is another 32 years, your non-economic losses come out to over $2 million.

Proving Pain and Suffering Damages in a Georgia Personal Injury Claim

As noted in Georgia’s statutes, the fact finder can presume that non-economic damages flow naturally from your injuries. In other words, everyone knows injuries cause pain and stress, so you do not need to prove the existence of your non-economic losses. However, you do need to help the fact finder place a value on these losses.

Since pain and suffering damages do not have an inherent value, you cannot quantify the quality of life you lost due to your injuries. But you can show the claims adjuster, judge, or jury the extent of your injuries and how they impact your life. You can also use expert testimony from a doctor to explain your limitations and how long they may last.

Thus, to ensure a fact finder has enough information to award fair compensation for pain and suffering, your lawyer may consider presenting the following evidence:

  • Medical records to show the extent of your injuries
  • Testimony from your doctor explaining how long your symptoms will last
  • Testimony from you describing how your injuries affect your life
  • Expert testimony providing some ways for the judge or jury to calculate your losses

Most cases settle before reaching trial. In these scenarios, your lawyer will work hard to persuade an insurance claims adjuster to award fair non-economic compensation.

An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Calculate Your Pain and Suffering Damages

Pain and suffering losses can have a substantial, long-term impact on your life, and you deserve compensation for them. At Mark Casto Personal Injury Law Firm, our seasoned team has recovered tens of millions in compensation for injury victims in Georgia. Contact us to schedule a free consultation and learn how our Columbus personal injury lawyer can protect your rights and future.