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How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated in California?

When you’re claiming compensation following a traumatic accident, most people only consider property damage and injuries because they’re visible, but what about emotional distress and physical discomfort? This is what pain and suffering address – the damages without a tangible value attached to them. How does a jury assign a dollar value to someone’s pain and suffering?

What is Covered Under Pain and Suffering?

According to federal law and California state law, pain, and suffering damages are those that are “non-economical”. Typically, pain and suffering damages are split into physical pain and emotional distress.

Physical pain and suffering have anything to do with bodily distress resulting from injuries including neck pain, road rash, broken bones, back pain, paralysis, headaches, and respiratory distress. This is only a snapshot of symptoms falling under pain and suffering.

Emotional pain and suffering are a little more challenging to prove because they tend to be abstract. Common examples of emotional pain and suffering include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), decreased quality of life, cognitive disorders, and grief.

Recovering compensation for pain and suffering damages can be difficult, which is why we recommend consulting an injury lawyer in California from Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys.

How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in California?

In California, the two primary methods for calculating pain and suffering damages are “The Per Diem Method” and “The Multiplier Method”. The value awarded for pain and suffering varies from case to case, so it’s not a good idea to rely on the “pain and suffering calculation tools” you can find online.

If the per diem method is used, the daily value assigned to pain and suffering is multiplied by the number of days the suffering lasts. For example, if the daily value is $150 per day and it will take 150 days to recover from injuries, the calculation would be $150 x 150 = $22,500. This amount is not influenced by the amount of economic damages you receive.

If the multiplier method is used, the court takes all economic damages including lost wages and medical bills, and then multiplies them by a number between 3 and 10. The multiplier used depends entirely on the extent of the pain and suffering, which is determined through testimonies.

Potential Challenges of Calculating Pain and Suffering

Attaching a dollar value to pain and suffering damages is challenging because of its subjective nature. Here are some common difficulties:

  • Lack of evidence. Pain and suffering damages don’t come with medical bills or evidence of lost wages. Instead, proof hangs on testimonies from the injured parties and medical professionals.
  • Subjectivity. Pain is personal. What one person experiences as excruciating, another may find tolerable. This makes quantifying pain and suffering damages extremely difficult.
  • Future impact. Personal injury cases often look at the long-term impact of injuries, but predicting the pain and suffering in the future can be challenging.
  • Emotional distress. Mental health conditions like fear, depression, and anxiety can appear different for each person, which makes measuring intensify difficult.
  • Biased jury. Every jury member comes with their own experiences. Even when attempting to remain impartial, these experiences can influence how they perceive pain and suffering.

The two methods of calculating pain and suffering in California provide jury members with a framework for approaching intangible damages, which leads to a fair decision for compensation.

What Role Does a Lawyer Play in Calculating Pain and Suffering?

In California, juries are responsible for awarding pain and suffering damages, but one of our top personal injury attorneys plays a critical role when it comes to getting the maximum compensation you deserve. Here are some of the ways our team can help you:

  • Collecting evidence. Our accident injury lawyers will investigate and document your injuries, the severity, and the impact on your daily life. This may include expert testimonies, pain journals, therapist documentation, and medical records.
  • Choosing the correct method. We understand the strengths and weaknesses of the multiplier method and per diem method, and we’ll choose the right one to maximize your compensation.
  • Demonstrating subjectivity. By portraying your story through clear communication, we can illustrate the extent of your pain and suffering to a jury.
  • Jury argumentation. Through presenting essential evidence, our lawyers will persuasively argue why you deserve our recommended amount of pain and suffering compensation.
  • Negotiating with insurance companies. Pain and suffering damages are often pushed aside by insurance companies, but we will use a series of negotiation tactics the ensure it’s reflected in your final settlement.

With an Injury Attorney in California on your side, you will have an expert to navigate the complex legal web of pain and suffering compensation.

Potential Limitations on Pain and Suffering Damages

Even though Californian state laws account for pain and suffering compensation, it’s essential to be aware of the following potential limitations:

  • Shared liability. California law follows a pure comparative negligence system. Simply put, if you’re found partially liable for an accident, the percentage of your liability will be deducted from your pain and suffering compensation.
  • Documentation. As mentioned previously, strong evidence is the key to winning pain and suffering damages. Any weaknesses in the evidence will reduce potential compensation.
  • Pre-existing conditions. If you have a pre-existing condition that may be contributing to your pain and suffering, a jury will consider how much of your pain comes from the accident itself.
  • Caps. In certain rare situations, California law can impose limitations on pain and suffering damages. These include lawsuits for medical malpractice.

If you have any concerns about these limitations, your personal injury accident lawyer will answer any questions to help put your mind at ease.

Beyond Formulas: Your Story is Important

The multiplier and per diem methods provide a framework for juries, but they don’t act as a substitute for your powerful story. The human element of your story (emotional distress, physical pain, and changes to quality of life) deserves to be heard, which is where our personal injury law firm comes into the equation.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident, contact Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys to claim the maximum compensation, including pain and suffering.