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The Calculation of Damages for Pain and Suffering

How a Jury Determines the Monetary Value of Physical and Emotional Distress

The Calculation of Damages for Pain and SufferingWhen you have been involved in any type of accident caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person, you have a right to seek monetary compensation for any loss of injury resulting from the wrongful actions. Some of those losses are easy to calculate, such as lost wages, unreimbursed medical expenses and property damages—those losses are commonly referred to as “economic losses.” You also have a right to recover damages for less tangible losses, including loss of companionship/consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.

What Is Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering is a legal term used to describe physical and/or emotional stress resulting from an accident/injury. The types of discomfort that are compensable include aches, temporary or chronic physical irritation or soreness, temporary or permanent limitations on physical or mental abilities, limitations on length of life, depression or permanent scarring.

How Does a Jury Calculate Damages for Pain and Suffering?

Damages for pain and suffering are what are referred to as “non-economic” damages. These kinds of damages are intangible and difficult to calculate. Accordingly, judges and juries take different approaches to determine damage awards for pain and suffering:

  • Some use a “multiplier,” where they calculate the amount of economic damages and multiply it by a factor, typically between one and ten. For example, if damages for lost wages, medical expenses and property damage total $50,000, a jury may apply a factor of three (just an example) and multiply 3 x $50,000 and award $150,000 for pain and suffering.
  • Many judges instruct jurors to use their judgment to identify a “reasonable” amount of compensation for pain and suffering, based on the severity of the injury and the type of pain associated with it

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