Pain and suffering damages can make up a substantial amount of a settlement or damage award. A car accident, medical error, or slip and fall incident can result in both economic and non-economic damages. In particular, pain and suffering usually fall under the category of non-economic damages.
What are pain and suffering damages? And, how do you put a value on something like these types of subjective harms? Here’s what you need to know.
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Non-Economic Damages: An Overview
Non-economic awards include compensation for damages that don’t have a set financial value. These are consequences of an accident or injury that are personal and highly subjective. They don’t come with a receipt or an invoice.
Some examples of non-economic damages under Maryland’s damages statute include:
Chronic Physical Pain
Physical pain can affect every aspect of your life. It can bring on misery and depression. It can require you to change your lifestyle and reduce your enjoyment of life. You could lose your ability to exercise, for example, making it harder to maintain your health. These aspects of pain qualify for compensation, even though they do not have a dollar value.
Suffering — also called mental anguish — can arise from the trauma of an accident. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions may result from an accident. The costs of medical and psychological treatments for those conditions would qualify as economic damages. The effect of the symptoms on your life would qualify as non-economic damages. For example, sadness, insomnia, and anxiety attacks have no quantifiable value, but can still alter your life.
The medical treatment you receive for a disfiguring injury qualifies as an economic damage. The ridicule, embarrassment, mental pain, and inconvenience of being disfigured would qualify as non-economic damages.
Loss of Consortium
When someone experiences an accident, they might be unable to connect with their loved ones physically, mentally, and emotionally. Loss of consortium represents the non-economic damage that comes from the loss of emotional support, familial relations, and sexual relations with an injured person.
Loss of Activities
Your injuries might prevent you from being able to engage in the activities that you love. You could lose the ability to participate in sports, hobbies, and family activities. This loss of participation could diminish your life in ways that are hard to quantify.
Reduction in Quality of Life
After you suffer from an accident, your overall quality of life could diminish.
Your physical, mental, and emotional satisfaction and happiness could decrease substantially, but in a way that cannot easily be measured.
Calculating Pain, Suffering, and Other Non-Economic Damages
Since non-economic damages do not come with a dollar value, professionals usually propose a different method to calculate their worth. Whether you go to trial or settle with an insurance company, you will probably need an expert witness to explain the best way to quantify your non-economic damages.
These calculations are highly personalized since everyone experiences pain, suffering, and other non-economic injuries differently. But experts usually rely on two models for evaluating non-economic damages.
The Multiplier Model
The multiplier model uses your economic damages to estimate your non-economic damages. The underlying idea is that greater economic injuries cause greater non-economic injuries.
This makes some sense if you compare a broken bone to a spinal cord injury. A broken arm needs less medical treatment and will keep you out of work for a shorter time than a compressed spinal cord.
The multiplier model requires the jury or claim adjuster to assign a multiplier to your case that is based on the severity and duration of your injuries. Again, the theory is that injuries that last longer and have greater severity will result in greater pain, suffering, loss of activities, and other non-economic losses.
The multiplier will fall in a range between 1.5 and 5.0. A relatively minor injury that heals — like a broken bone — might receive a low multiplier. A severe injury — like permanent paralysis — might receive a high multiplier.
The jury or claim adjuster will multiply the chosen value by the economic damages to calculate your total damages. If your medical bills and lost income total $15,000 and your multiplier is 2.5, your total damages would be $52,500. $15,000 of this would represent your economic damages and $37,500 would represent your non-economic damages, including pain and suffering.
The Per Diem Model
The per diem model tries to directly measure your non-economic losses. A jury or claim examiner would determine the daily value of your non-economic losses.
For example, suppose you suffer from insomnia, panic attacks, and mild pain.
A jury or claim examiner might determine that these losses are worth $150 per day.
This chosen rate would be multiplied by the number of days that your injuries persisted. If your injuries lasted about 90 days, your non-economic damages would total 90 x $150 for a claim value of $13,500. If your economic damages were $15,000, your overall damages would total $28,500.
Presenting a Case for Non-Economic Damages
Pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages might be tough to quantify. But you can document them so you can make a case for compensation for these types of damages. Maryland currently caps non-economic damages at $890,000. The cap goes up by $15,000 every year.
The more documentation you have for your non-economic injuries, the more likely it will be that you’ll be able to obtain compensation for them. Some ways to improve your chances of recovering compensation for non-economic injuries include:
- Talking to your doctor about all of your problems, including your pain, emotional issues, and mental symptoms that arose from the accident
- Keeping copies of your pharmacy receipts
- Visiting a therapist or counselor to talk through your anguish and grief
Even if your damages are non-economic in nature, they still affect you. Having a path to recover compensation could improve the quality of your life.