Jason Stephens | May 6, 2020 | Personal Injury
If you have been injured because of another party’s wrongdoing or negligence, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages. Examples of cases that involve negligence and wrongdoing include car accidents, wrongful deaths, slip and fall accidents, and defective product injuries.
After proving that the party is liable for your damages, you can file a claim seeking compensation for a variety of damages. While money never fully compensates a victim for the pain, suffering, and financial losses caused by a negligent act, it can help you as you work to rebuild your life after an accident or injury.
Damages Allowed in a Texas Personal Injury Claim
Texas laws allow an injured party to seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the financial losses caused by the accident and your injuries. Examples of economic damages include, but are not limited to:
- The cost of medical care and treatment
- Loss of compensation, including salary, wages, benefits, bonuses, commissions, and other forms of income
- The cost of personal care, including in-home health care
- Travel expenses to and from medical appointments
- Specialized medical equipment and prosthetics
- Modifications to a home or vehicle to accommodate an impairment or disability
Reasonable out-of-pocket expenses may be included in economic damages. However, you must have proof that you incurred the expense or financial loss. You must also prove that the economic damage was directly related to the accident or your injury.
Non-economic damages include injuries, pain, and suffering. They are commonly referred to as “pain and suffering” damages. Pain and suffering damages are subjective and much more difficult to prove and to value.
What are Pain and Suffering Damages?
Pain and suffering damages include a variety of damages caused by the accident including:
- The suffering and pain caused by physical injuries
- Psychological injuries caused by the accident and your injuries, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Disfigurement, scarring, disabilities, and permanent impairments
- The loss of enjoyment of life and decreases in quality of life
- Loss of companionship, guidance, support, love, intimacy, and counsel
An accident can be devastating for a victim. Even when a victim heals entirely from the physical injuries caused by the accident, the emotional and mental damages can last a lifetime. For that reason, it is important to increase the value of pain and suffering damages for a personal injury claim.
Two Ways to Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages for a Personal Injury Case
The courts nor the statutes in Texas provide a standard formula for calculating pain and suffering damages. However, most insurance companies and attorneys use one of two methods for valuing noneconomic damages.
The Per Diem Method
A daily dollar amount is assigned to the claim for pain and suffering damages under the per diem method. The per diem is multiplied by the duration of your recovery.
The recovery duration is calculated from the date of your injury through the date your doctor states you have reached maximum medical recovery or MMI.
MMI is the point at which further medical treatment is not expected to improve the victim’s condition. You could recover fully from your injuries after an accident. However, you could reach MMI with a permanent impairment or disability.
For example, if you were injured in a construction accident on January 1 and your doctor released you on June 30, your recovery duration is 181 days. If the per diem assigned to your claim is $300, your pain and suffering damages total $54,300.
The Multiplier Method
A more common method of valuing pain and suffering damages in a personal injury claim is the multiplier method. Many juries use the multiplier method when deliberating and assigning the value of an award.
Multipliers are generally a number between 1.5 and five. The total of the financial damages multiplied by the multiplier is the value of the pain and suffering damages.
For example, if your financial damages from a pedestrian accident total $75,000 and the multiplier assigned to your claim is two, your pain and suffering damages total $150,000.
How are Multipliers and Per Diems Assigned in a Claim?
Neither the per diem method nor the multiplier method is a perfect way to value pain and suffering damages. Placing a value on a person’s suffering is impossible. For that reason, parties and the courts use the facts of the case to calculate a fair amount of compensation for non-economic damages.
Several factors can impact the multiplier or per diem assigned to the case.
- The type and severity of your injuries
- Whether you sustain a permanent impairment because of the accident
- The total of your financial damages
- Whether you contributed to the cause of your injury
- The duration of your recovery
In most situations, the multiplier or the per diem increases as the severity of the injuries increase. For example, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, and amputations result in higher multipliers than cases involving a broken bone.
Likewise, a case involving a complex fracture that results in a permanent impairment results in a higher per diem compared to a case involving a broken finger that heals completely.
Each case is subjective. The insurance provider tries to assign a low value for pain and suffering damages. Your lawyer fights to use the highest multiplier or per diem possible to calculate non-economic damages.
What are Things You Can Do to Increase the Value of Pain and Suffering Damages?
Unfortunately, many of the factors that impact how much your pain and suffering damages are worth are not within your control. However, there are things that you can do to improve your chance of recovering the full value for these accident damages.
- Seek immediate medical treatment after an accident or injury involving another party
- Always follow your doctor’s treatment plan
- Do not return to work until your doctor releases you to do so
- Follow all restrictions on your daily activities given to you by your doctor
- Report any new symptoms or increased pain to your physicians immediately
- Avoid using social media during your personal injury case (posts on social media may be accessed by the defense and used in a trial)
- Never admit fault or apologize for an accident
- Track your pain and inability to perform tasks in a pain and suffering journal
- Take photographs of your injuries during your recovery
Consulting with a personal injury lawyer as soon after your accident as possible is strongly recommended. An attorney can help you avoid mistakes that could hurt your chance of receiving full value for damages. Your lawyer also understands how to secure a full monetary award.