car accident settlement pain and suffering claims

Car accidents can leave victims with mounting medical bills and other financial losses, like lost wages. But not all injuries are easy to value in monetary terms. For example, if a car accident leaves you paralyzed in your legs, you might still be able to work. Nevertheless, you have suffered a terrible loss to your ordinary way of life.

In California, “pain and suffering” is the catchall term to describe certain non-economic losses you can be compensated for. However, it is not always easy to calculate how much these losses are worth. If you have been in an auto accident, pain and suffering damages might be substantial.

What Does Pain and Suffering Cover in California?

Each state defines pain and suffering differently. According to California Civil Jury Instruction 3905A, pain and suffering includes:

  • Physical pain;
  • Mental suffering;
  • Physical impairment;
  • Disfigurement;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life;
  • Inconvenience; and
  • Emotional distress, including embarrassment or anxiety.

After a minor accident, this pain and suffering might be temporary, clearing up after a couple of months. With particularly serious accidents, however, our clients can be permanently disfigured or disabled.

How Do We Calculate Pain and Suffering?

In one sense, no amount of money can ever make up for certain injuries. For example, if your brain injury permanently impairs your memory and ability to speak, then no money can ever make you whole.

Nevertheless, you can’t get your old body back in a car accident settlement, so money is the best substitute. At the Beliz Law Firm, we use two different methods to estimate pain and suffering: the multiplier method and the per diem method.

Multiplier Method

This method is easy to understand. You take your actual economic losses—the cost of medical care, lost wages, and property damage. Then you multiply these amounts by a number usually between 1 and 5, with 1 being used for less serious injuries and 5 used for the most serious, like paralysis.

To take an example, Karen might have suffered the following economic losses when she suffered an arm fracture in a T-bone collision:

  • Medical care: $5,000
  • Lost wages: $3,000
  • Car damage: $2,000
  • Total economic losses: $10,000

Since her injury is moderate, you would probably multiply this amount by 2 and arrive at $20,000, which is a rough estimate of her pain and suffering damages. Add the $20,000 to her $10,000 in economic losses, and Karen could get around $30,000 in her settlement.

Per Diem Method

Per diem means “by the day.” This method assigns a daily value for pain and suffering, such as $200. If Karen’s broken arm caused her pain for three months, during which she was regularly seeing the doctor, then you might multiply $200 by 90 days to reach $18,000 for total pain and suffering.

How do you arrive at the per diem amount? Actually, it might seem rather arbitrary. An insurance company might look at how much you earn a day and use that as the number. Your attorney could use some other number so long as there is a legitimate reason for doing so.

Speak with Us Now

After an auto accident, you need steady legal guidance to help you get the money you deserve. At the Beliz Law Firm, we have extensive experience with car accident settlement pain and suffering claims, and we want to use our knowledge for you. To schedule your free consultation, please reach out to us today.

Author Photo

Michael Beliz

Michael A. Beliz, Esq., established The Beliz Law Firm in the spring of 2011.  Michael has been a practicing attorney since 2006 and worked for two of the most prominent plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California.  He has worked on and handled hundreds of cases as an attorney in all types of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and dog bites, and successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients.