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How is Pain and Suffering Calculated?

February 16, 2023 Personal Injury

One of the most common questions asked of personal injury lawyers is about how pain and suffering is calculated. In Alabama, there is no formula or any type of mathematical equation to determine exactly the amount you are entitled to for pain and suffering. However, experienced personal injury lawyers can guide you in determining this amount.

Let’s discuss.

What Is Pain and Suffering?

When you have been hurt due to the negligence of another, you are entitled to compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are money you can seek to compensate you for some type of harm you have suffered.  There are many types of compensatory damages, such as compensation for medical bills, property damage, and loss of income.  Pain and suffering is simply one of those types of compensation.

For an explanation of compensatory damages, watch this video:

How to Determine a Fair Amount for Pain and Suffering

The easiest way is to make a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer.  However, if you’re not ready to take that step, here are some factors that lawyers such as ourselves consider when estimating a fair amount for their clients’ pain and suffering:

  • The severity of the injury
  • The amount of medical treatment needed for the injury
  • The pain levels recorded in the injured person’s medical records
  • Whether surgery was needed
  • Whether pain is reasonably certain to occur in the future
  • Past jury verdict amounts for pain and suffering in cases with similar injuries

The last factor is oftentimes the most important thing to consider. After all, if a settlement cannot be reached in a personal injury case, then a jury will eventually determine the amount of pain and suffering if you pursue the case in court.

Therefore, the best way to make an educated guess (and that’s what calculating pain and suffering really is), is to look at past jury verdicts in the county in which your accident occurred that involve similar facts, injuries, and medical treatment.

If there are numerous high verdicts in your county involving similar facts, the insurance company will know this. The insurance company will be willing to offer a higher amount for pain and suffering in such a case. On the other hand, if jury verdicts are typically low in cases with similar facts, then you can expect less.

So where do I find these past jury verdicts?

While jury verdicts are public record, there is no online database available to the public that organizes them for review, at least in Alabama. Personal injury attorneys frequently review recent verdicts.  Therefore, the easiest and cheapest way to find this information is by simply calling a personal injury lawyer.

But Give Me a Ballpark!

Every personal injury case is different. With that said, if you were in a car accident and the only medical treatment needed was a check-up with your family doctor, then do not expect tens of thousands of dollars for pain and suffering. One or two thousand may be sufficient in that type of case.

If you fractured your tibia and fibula due to someone’s negligence, required an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgery, and months of physical therapy, then obviously a fair amount of pain and suffering will be much higher than the previous example. You may be entitled to tens of thousands of dollars (or even over $100,000) for pain and suffering in that type of incident.

According to data collected by Forbes, the average personal injury settlement in America for 2021-2022 was $23,234.  However, that is the average total settlement, which should include not just compensation for pain and suffering, but also medical costs and other compensatory damages. Therefore, the average payout for pain and suffering is certainly less than $20,000.

Types of Accidents Where You Can’t Get Pain and Suffering

There are a few types of accidents in which you can’t get pain and suffering.  For example, if you are injured on the job through no one else’s fault, you are not entitled to pain and suffering. While you do have a workers’ compensation claim and are entitled to compensation, you are not going to get compensation for pain and suffering. Alabama workers’ compensation laws are clear on this issue.

Another example is a wrongful death case in Alabama.  In Alabama, the sole type of damages for wrongful death are punitive damages. Even though the person who died may have had severe pain between the time of the incident and the time of death, Alabama law does not allow recovery of money for this pain.

In addition, you cannot get pain and suffering if you did not have a physical injury. Alabama law states that only an injured person can recover this element of damage. Being insulted or stressed because of someone’s wrongful conduct does not mean you are entitled to pain and suffering.

Let Us Review Your Case for Free

If you are uncertain about what is a fair amount for pain and suffering, call us today. We may not be able to give you an exact amount, but we can guide you in evaluating your claim.

To do this, we will have to review the evidence as to how the incident occurred and review the medical records. We can gather the evidence and records on your behalf, at no charge, to get you compensation for pain and suffering.