Pain & Suffering Settlement Examples
The settlement offered for pain and suffering damages is a component of a personal injury claim. Such a claim is brought against another who, by their negligent or intentional act, caused injury and damage to the other.
The value placed upon a claim for pain and suffering is subjective, and the proof of this claim lacks hard evidence. This blog will describe the subjectivity of a claim for pain and suffering and examples of it.
First, let’s look at the components of a personal injury claim for a better understanding of where and how a pain and suffering claim fits into the big picture.
Two Tiers of Damages
Every personal injury claim has two components: economic and non-economic damages. These damage categories comprise the personal injury claim.
Economic damages are objective and real. The value of economic damages is supported by receipts for out-of-pocket expenses paid for medical treatments, prescriptions, and repairs to a vehicle. Lost wages are another form of economic damage. The baseline for lost wages is the earnings level immediately prior to the accident. Wages lost result from any unpaid time off of work and/or the wage level of a replacement job if this job pays at a lower scale.
The value of economic damages is quantifiable and easily proved.
Non-economic damages are subjective and cannot be proven with tangible evidence. Examples of a claim for pain and suffering claim are:
- fear of the unknown extent of an injury
- disruption of a normal life
- lack of the enjoyment of life
- future limitations on activities
- the emotional effects of the loss of future earning capacity upon the injured and dependents
- the lasting shock effects of the accident
- the resultant pain from the injuries
The settlement of a pain and suffering claim is the amount, in dollars and cents, offered by or on behalf of the person causing the injuries and accepted by the injured person.
A subset of non-economic damages is the punitive damages allowed to be recovered in Georgia. This damage subset is the focus of the injuries suffered by the claimant but is specific to the person responsible for the accident. This is the punishment.
Examples of Pain and Suffering
Damages to pain and suffering consider both physical and emotional. The physical impacts can be chronic pain or headaches, any physical impairment, or any restriction of movement. Then there are the emotional impacts like depression, anxiety or cognitive impairment that fall into the definition of pain and suffering.
The value of economic damages can be easily quantified and projected in the future, like physical therapy and job re-training. But how is the value determined for things that are subjective and intangible? There cannot be a set formula without a set value.
Personal injury attorneys will use the multiplier method based upon the permanency of the injuries. This multiplier method will be used on the value placed on the economic damages—the damages where the value is proven.
The attorneys will also use the per diem rate which is an estimate of a per-day value during the time for recovery as opposed to the projection of future expenses.
Based upon the circumstances of each case, the attorney will make the determination as to which method will prove the most beneficial for the client.
However, most insurance companies use a per diem rate that closely follows the daily wage of the injured. This rate is adjusted for the severity or permanence of the injuries.
The subject of settlement negotiations is the value of the pain and suffering claim. The value of the economic damages, and the projections going forward, are rarely the subject of heavy negotiations.
The attorney representing the injured party will offer one number, and the attorneys for the insurance company will counter with another. It will take the expertise of a personal injury attorney to either continue negotiating with the insurance company or move for a jury trial. This will add another layer of subjectivity to the calculations of the pain and suffering claim and the amount to award for punitive damages.
In the end, the only established value of a personal injury claim is that of economic damages. The value of the non-economic damages will be some multiple of the economic value.
The methodology for the calculation of the value to be placed on the pain and suffering claim is the subject of the settlement negotiations.