Most people have a good grasp of what they are owed when a car accident occurs. You can expect the at-fault driver's (or your own) insurance carrier to pay for your medical bills and repair or replacement of your wrecked car. Pain and suffering, however, tends to invoke a fuzzier expectation. You know you are experiencing pain and suffering, but how do you get compensated for it? Read to find out more about how this important and valuable facet of personal injury cases works.
What is meant by pain and suffering? Since there is really no accurate way to put a price on a person's misery level and pain, insurance companies use a mathematical calculation to arrive at a number. Understanding at least the basics of how this number is determined could help you and your attorney know what to expect when it comes time to ask for a certain monetary amount.
What factors go into determining pain and suffering? One of the primary factors used is the dollar amount of your medical expenses, so far, and an estimation of any future medical expenses. Medical care is expensive, and in most cases you have not had to actually pay any of those costs yourself, but that dollar amount figures prominently in the pain and suffering calculation.
Keeping up with this amount: Keep all of your receipts and a list of all medical treatments, diagnostic tests, therapies and medications prescribed. The insurance company, who is (hopefully) paying these costs, will also have their own accounting. You will, however, want to have your own numbers so that your attorney will know what to expect in the form of an offer to settle. Knowing what is at stake can assist in determining a "bottom line" that you are willing to accept when the offer does come.
The calculation: You can, once you have your own numbers available, plug those numbers into a simulated calculator similar to the one that the insurance carrier might use. It should be noted that different carriers use different methods of calculation, so use the calculator to get general information only. Basically, the dollar amount of your medical expenses are multiplied by a factor based on how serious your injury is. Then other damages are added to that figure, such as lost wages and personal property (the car, etc) losses.
Other factors: Be sure not to rely too heavily on any calculations alone; there are other important factors that could influence a settlement offer. For example:
- Do you share any fault in the accident with the other party?
- How much are similar settlements and verdicts in your local area?
- What is your age and level of education?
Talk to a personal injury attorney for more information.