Pain and Suffering After a Car Accident

After being injured in a car accident, many clients understandably wonder “what is my case worth?” This is sometimes a difficult task to determine, as every insurance company uses different methods and formulas to value a personal injury claim. However, in general, the value of a car accident claim takes the following things into consideration:

  • Reimbursement for Medical Bills
  • Lost Past Income
  • Lost Future Income
  • Property Damage
  • Loss of Consortium (Relationships)
  • Pain and Suffering

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In this article, we will explore the term “pain and suffering.” It’s important to understand that pain and suffering is a highly subjective term that varies significantly depending on the type of personal injury sustained. In general, pain and suffering refers to the emotional distress and/or “mental anguish” a victim of a personal injury accident suffers. This includes such things as:

  • Physical pain and discomfort caused by a personal injury; and
  • Depression, memory loss, inability to sleep, anxiety or other mental disorders; and
  • Physical limitations and impairments – such as the inability to walk or talk; and
  • Loss of Consortium (Relationships); and
  • Any other psychological trauma

Pain and Suffering Calculation Methods

While each insurance company has advanced algorithms for determining the value of a personal injury claim, there are two main methods to determine the value of pain and suffering. These methods are the Per Diem method and the Multiplier method. 

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Car Accident Settlement Guide

Per Diem Method

Per Diem is a latin word that translates to “by the day.” In essence, this method of calculation assesses pain and suffering a dollar value – which usually includes the daily loss of wage and physical limitations – and multiplies it by the number of days that the personal injury victim was affected. 

This method is rarely used in car accident settlements, but some circumstances will call for it. 

Multiplier Method

This is, far and away, the most common method used in the calculation of pain and suffering in car accident settlements. In its’ most simplistic terms, this method accounts for all economic damages and multiplies it by some number to determine pain and suffering. This number usually varies somewhere between 1 and 5 – depending on the severity and permanency of the condition. 

When accounting for economic damages, our personal injury lawyers add up the medical bills, lost wages and any out of pocket costs to arrive at a number for special damages. From there, we will craft an argument as to why a particular multiplier is appropriate for the situation to adequately compensate for pain and suffering. 

Tactics Adjusters use to Limit Pain and Suffering

While many insurance companies will accept provable and reasonable requests to pay for pain and suffering – some inevitably will seek to minimize the damage caused by a car accident. Economic damages are typically easy to prove – such as a medical bill, etc. – but pain and suffering can be much more abstract. 

In our 35+ years of experience, here are the situations where insurance company adjusters give the most push back to pain and suffering demands after a car accident

  • Soft Tissue Injuries: Injuries to soft tissue, such as strains, contusions, whiplash and sprain can be difficult to document via diagnostic testing and can make adjusters skeptical. 
  • Low-Impact Collisions. Despite significant evidence to the contrary, adjusters seem hard pressed to believe that low-impact car accidents 
  • Prior Injuries:  Often times, prior injuries are used to minimize the effect of a more recent car accident. In these circumstances, thorough documentation of medical treatment is vital. 
  • Low or Zero Medical Bills. When documentation is lacking, insurance companies seize on the opportunity to minimize the experience. Sometimes, this lack of treatment is caused by lack of insurance or access to medicine – rather than a lack of injury. 
  • Joint Liability. In some circumstances, there may be some shared liability for the car accident. This can be a point of contention, and is a frequent point of argument. 

How Evidence can Help Your Claim

it’s important that, before you make a demand of an insurance company, you think about how to be the most persuasive in maximizing the settlement potential. The reasons you arrive at will form the basis of your demand letter. 

Our family of lawyers has over 35+ years of combined experience crafting persuasive and logical demand letters that have helped to recover millions for our clients. 

Medical Records: Along with a written narrative of the car accident, we also include any and all relevant copies of medical records. These records help to document the full extent of the injury, things such as:

  • Weight Restrictions: Often times after a car accident, your doctor will place weight restrictions on how much you can lift. 
  • Sleep Issues: Medical providers will document in the records any issues surrounding problems sleeping. 
  • Driving Restrictions:  If you have been instructed not to drive by your treating doctor, this is important to document and include in a demand for pain and suffering. 
  • Anxiety or Depression. Mental health diagnosis after a car accident are vital to document, as most insurers will discredit them without sufficient evidence. 

Photographs of Injuries: Photographs taken throughout your recovery process are invaluable to show an insurance company adjuster the process of healing you have had to endure. Photographs of a totaled vehicle or a permanent scar can be very compelling evidence. 

Witness Statements: Since most car accidents occur in public, there are often witnesses that can give statements about what they witnessed. Even better, there is often security camera or dash camera footage 

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Dennis P. Sawan

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Christopher A. Sawan


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