How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?

Pain and suffering damages – which compensate you for the changes in your life brought on by your accident – might represent a significant part of a settlement or damages award.

Lawyers can help you to evaluate the pain and suffering damages you might claim. But the strategies used to calculate these damages can vary.

Below, you’ll find information about the ways that pain and suffering damages are calculated and how you can help to support your claim for non-economic damages.

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

Non-economic damages are intended to compensate you for injuries that cannot be measured financially. Some of the injuries that can be compensated through non-economic damages include:

  • Pain:  Physical pain can diminish your quality of life. Pain can limit your activities and create discomfort that could last for your lifetime.
  • Suffering:  Mental anguish is separate from mental injury. Economic damages cover therapy and medications to treat a mental or emotional state caused by the accident. Non-economic damages cover the loss in quality of life and activities due to those same mental injuries.
  • Inconvenience:  The inconvenience of being injured goes beyond its cost. Inconvenience might include not being able to drive, having to use crutches or a wheelchair, or sleeping in a hospital bed for two weeks while you recover.

Non-economic damages center around compensating you for how your life has changed due to your accident. More drastic changes might justify greater damages.

When Can You Recover Compensation for Pain and Suffering in Florida?

Florida is unique in a few ways. First, Florida is a no-fault insurance state. This means that Florida drivers are required to purchase auto insurance to cover their own losses in case of an accident.

This also means that drivers in Florida must file a claim with their own insurance company after an accident, even if someone else caused the accident. The insurance companies pay the claim strictly based on the documented injuries and property damage, regardless of fault.

Secondly, unless a car accident involves some specific circumstances, the injured person cannot claim compensation for pain, suffering, mental anguish, or inconvenience.

The statute only allows non-economic damages if one of the following occurred during the car accident:

  • Death
  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
  • Permanent injury
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement

This means that most injured people would need to consult a lawyer to determine whether they can claim non-economic damages.

How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?

The value of pain and suffering can be difficult to pin down because they are not tied to any bills.

As a result, an insurance company or jury usually needs an expert to help them set an amount for non-economic recovery. 

Some of the factors used to quantify non-economic damages include:

  • The severity and duration of the injury
  • The age of the injured person
  • The activities lost due to the injury
  • The severity and duration of pain experienced

These factors can be referenced regardless of the technique for calculating pain and suffering damages.

The two techniques for calculating non-economic damages are:

Multiplier Method

Under the multiplier method, the economic damages are calculated first. A multiplier is assigned based on factors like those described above. This multiplier usually ranges from 1.5 to 5.

The economic damages are multiplied against the multiplier to determine the entire damage award. For example, if the economic damages are $25,000 and the multiplier is 3, the total damages award is $100,000 ($25,000 in economic damages and $75,000 in non-economic damages).

Per Diem Method

According to this method, a daily value is assigned to the pain and suffering using factors like those outlined previously. This daily value is multiplied by the number of days the injured person experienced pain and suffering to arrive at the total amount of non-economic damages.

For example, if the per diem amount is $75 and the injured person suffered for 500 days, the total non-economic damages are $37,500. This amount would then be added to the economic damages to calculate the total damages awarded.

Each of these methods has its strengths. The multiplier method is good at capturing future damages, but relies heavily on the economic damages. If the value of economic damages is small, the multiplier method will produce a small value for non-economic damages, regardless of the actual pain and suffering experienced.

The per diem method is good for determining a value that is based on the impact of the accident on the injured person’s daily life. But this method is not tailored to account for future non-economic damages. For example, if an injury will prevent a parent from playing with grandchildren who have not yet been born, the per diem method will not account for these kinds of diminished activities.

Are There Limits on Non-Economic Damages?

Florida places no statutory limits on non-economic damages. Florida used to have a law that capped non-economic damages at $500,000 in medical malpractice lawsuits. This law was found to be unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. This means that non-economic damages for pain and suffering are available to people who have been injured in all types of personal injury cases, including car accidents, slip-and-fall cases, and medical malpractice.

Recovering Compensation for Non-Economic Damages

Florida’s law regarding pain and suffering damages requires two steps to be satisfied for non-economic damages. 

As a result, you will need evidence to prove:

  1. You satisfy the Florida statute because you suffered a permanent injury, loss of an important bodily function, scarring, or disfigurement.
  2. You have experienced pain, suffering, inconvenience, or mental anguish arising from the accident.

Evidence to prove that you satisfy these requirements can include medical records, expert testimony, and witness testimony.

You will want to document things such as:

  • Mental or emotional problems stemming from the accident
  • Activities you can no longer perform after the accident
  • Pain and pain management needed due to the accident
  • Inconveniences you have suffered from the accident

With evidence to prove these non-economic injuries, you can establish your claim for pain and suffering.