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Calculating Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Claim

How Will a Jury Determine the Monetary Value of Pain and Suffering?

Calculating Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury ClaimWhen you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person, it’s pretty common to experience significant pain, either temporarily or for the rest of your life. That pain and suffering may make it difficult or impossible to work, and may force you to give up activities that have given joy, purpose or meaning to your life.

In a personal injury lawsuit, you have a right to seek compensation for that discomfort. It’s not easy to quantify that pain and suffering in dollars and cents, though. Ultimately, a jury will have to determine that you are entitled to damages for pain and suffering and will need to calculate the damage award. Here are some of the considerations that juries typically make when evaluating claims for pain and suffering:

  • How credible are you as a witness? Is your testimony consistent? Did the defense attorney raise doubts about your claims on cross-examination? Did you seem uncertain or lack confidence in your claims? What about your physical appearance? Did you look like someone they could trust? (It may not seem that your physical appearance should matter, but it does).
  • Does your claim follow logically? Do the injuries you allege you have suffered seem a reasonable consequence of the accident?
  • Is there medical or expert witness testimony to support your allegations? Does it seem credible? Is your expert witness effective? Has a clear connection been established between the accident and your pain and suffering?
  • Do you have a criminal record? It has nothing to do with your personal injury, but may affect your credibility.

Some Approaches to Damages for Pain and Suffering

Because of the uncertainty of these damages, different courts take different approaches. Many judges instruct the jury to use common sense when calculating the amount. Another common practice is to use a “multiplier.” In such a case, the court will determine the amount of “economic” damages (those that can easily be calculated) and then multiply that amount by a factor (typically anywhere from 1 to 10). Accordingly, if the court uses a factor of three and the economic damages are $500,000, the damages for pain and suffering will be calculated at $1.5 million.

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