How Do Car Insurance Companies Calculate Pain and Suffering?

Car accident victims are not only entitled to reimbursement for their tangible monetary losses, such as medical bills and property damage, but they are also owed compensation for pain and suffering. But how do car insurance companies assign a dollar amount to something abstract like pain and suffering? 

At Attorney911, we have years of experience helping people injured in car accidents get paid. So, we decided to create this guide on how car insurance companies calculate settlement offers for pain and suffering to help people even more.

What is pain and suffering?

First things first, what does “pain and suffering” actually mean? 

In addition to reimbursement for your medical expenses and damage to your vehicle, car accident victims are entitled to compensation for the physical and emotional agony the accident caused them. Money paid to compensate for the physical pain caused by your injuries is called “pain and suffering,” and payment for mental, emotional, and psychological harm, like anxiety or depression, is called “mental anguish.” 

Almost any sort of physical, emotional, mental, or psychological harm caused by the crash can qualify as pain and suffering. Victims can be paid for both the pain and suffering they already endured and for estimated future pain and suffering.

Examples of compensable pain and suffering include:

  • Physical damage to the body
  • Physical distress, such as chronic pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort caused by medical treatment
  • Emotional distress, mental anguish, or grief caused by the accident
  • Temporary or permanent limitations to activities 
  • Psychological trauma caused by the accident, such as depression, anxiety, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Embarrassment or humiliation caused by permanent or temporary disfigurement, like burning or scarring 
  • Permanent disability or the loss of an essential bodily function
  • Decreased quality or enjoyment of life 
  • Loss of consortium or domestic services

Can I sue for pain and suffering after a car accident?

While the first step after a car accident is to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance companies involved. The majority of car accident cases are resolved through an insurance settlement, no lawsuit required. However, if you cannot reach an acceptable settlement agreement, you can take the responsible party and their insurer to court. 

A personal injury lawyer can represent you and file the lawsuit on your behalf. The term “personal injury” includes any type of legal dispute where someone is harmed in an accident and seeks to hold someone else legally responsible for their injuries. These kinds of cases are governed by state tort law.

In personal injury lawsuits, the money the court awards you for your injuries is called “damages.” Pain and suffering is a type of damages you can receive from a car crash lawsuit. While there is a $250,000 limitation on pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases, Texas courts do not impose any limits on the amount of pain and suffering damages in motor vehicle accident cases.

How do I prove pain and suffering after a car accident?

When evaluating the extent of your pain and suffering damages, the judge, jury, or insurance adjuster will review various factors. Since you can’t produce a document that shows the exact amount of harm caused, like you can with a hospital bill or an invoice from a mechanic, pain and suffering damage are often determined based on the extent of your injuries.   

Types of evidence that you can use to establish the existence and severity of your pain and suffering caused by a car crash injury include:

  • Medical records that contain your diagnosis and a description of the physical pain involved 
  • Photos of your visible injuries such as bruises, lacerations, and swelling
  • Testimony from friends and family regarding your emotional or psychological pain and suffering you have experienced
  • Medical records and opinion testimony from a mental health professional
  • A personal injury diary detailing your feelings and the challenges you face throughout your recovery

What is the average pain and suffering settlement or compensation for a car accident?

Unfortunately, there’s no black and white answer or formula we can give you to calculate the average pain and settlement amount for a car accident. The amount of money that will compensate for your pain and suffering is subjective and depends on who is deciding your settlement offer. 

The value assigned to your pain and suffering will vary based on the car crash’s facts and circumstances and the extent of your injuries. Generally, as the severity of your injuries increases, so does your pain and suffering settlement. The theory behind this correlation is that the more medical treatment you undergo, the more pain, discomfort, and suffering you experience.

For this reason, pain and suffering awards will usually be the highest for victims with catastrophic injuries or wrongful death claims. When you can provide evidence that you have experienced extreme mental or physical anguish, permanent disability, or significant disruption to your daily life activities, you will almost always receive more compensation for pain and suffering. 

How do I calculate pain and suffering after a car accident?

Insurance claims adjusters, judges, and juries generally use one of two primary methods for calculating compensation awards for pain and suffering.

The Multiplier Method

In this method, you multiply the total amount of the victim’s actual economic damages (e.g., medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, etc.) by a number between 1.5 and 5. This multiplier corresponds to the severity of the injuries and is typically closely associated with medical costs. Lower medical expenses usually result in a smaller multiplier, whereas higher medical expenses can justify a multiplier in the 3 to 5 range.

The Per Diem Method 

With the per diem method, you decide on a dollar amount awarded for each day the victim spends recovering from their injuries. The most common amount selected is the victim’s daily wage. This amount will be multiplied by the number of days it takes to reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). 

The multiplier method is used more frequently for long-term or permanent injuries, whereas the per diem method makes more sense for injuries with an estimated recovery date.

Will car accident insurance claims pay for pain and suffering?

Yes, a car accident insurance claim settlement may include compensation for pain and suffering. However, it’s important to remember that insurance companies always try to settle their claims for the lowest amount possible. If you want to receive a fair settlement for any of your injuries, including your pain and suffering, you will have to negotiate.

If you hire a personal injury lawyer to help negotiate a settlement, you won’t have to deal with claims adjusters at all. Once the insurance companies know you are represented by counsel, they can’t contact you personally and can only discuss your personal injury claim with your attorney. 

Do I need a car accident attorney for pain and suffering claims?

While you are not legally required to be represented by a car accident attorney for pain and suffering claims, the amount of compensation you receive will generally increase from hiring an attorney. Additionally, an experienced personal injury lawyer can review the facts of your case and determine the proper legal terms for the types of suffering you have experienced from the accident. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, you should consult with an established personal injury attorney as soon as possible. 

Have questions? We protect victims like you every day.

Call 888-ATTY-911


Read More

The Victim’s Guide to Car Crash Compensation
How Much Does a Car Accident Lawyer Cost?
What Does a Car Accident Lawyer Do?
Can an Insurance Company Refuse to Pay a Claim?

About Attorney911 
Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services

Attorney911 Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services is a Texas-based personal injury and criminal defense law firm with offices in Houston and Austin, though we are proud to serve Texans from all over the state and represent clients in federal court. We handle a wide variety of legal issues — from car accidents to worker’s compensation to DUI/DWI offenses. Our staff is bilingual, friendly, and genuinely passionate about helping our clients, whether it’s a million-dollar case or a thousand-dollar case. We also understand that cost can be a prohibitive factor in hiring a lawyer, and are willing to work with you on structuring payment in a way that is fair and feasible. We do accept credit cards for our hourly fees, and take some cases on contingency, which means you don’t pay us unless and until you get paid yourself. We know that you have a choice in your legal representation, and we believe that what makes us stand out from the competition is our real emotional investment in our clients. We see you as a person — not a paycheck. And we will fight hard for you, because we truly care.