When discussing an injury claim, it's easy to focus on the direct and physically provable harm that occurred. However, a personal injury attorney will also want to pursue damages to cover pain, suffering, and emotional trauma. These aren't as easy to prove, but the legal system has a process for handling this issue.
Starting with the Known Injuries
Most insurance companies and nearly all courts use a multiplier system to calculate compensation for pain, suffering, and trauma. They apply the multiplier to a base, and the base is almost always the total medical expenses associated with the injuries.
A personal injury lawyer will need to tally all of your medical costs before they can move forward with the rest of the claim. These costs arise from surgeries, pharmaceutical expenses, life-sustain devices, and tests. You may also seek compensation to cover therapies and long-term care costs.
Once you have established a baseline of medical costs, you can work on developing the multiplier. Traditionally, the multiplier goes from 1.5 to 5 times the base. For example, in a case with a 3X multiplier, you'd triple the medical costs to determine compensation for pain, suffering, and trauma.
Notably, the multiplier is a common bone of contention in negotiations. A personal injury lawyer will submit a demand package using a particular multiplier, but the insurance company might say it should be lower. Your attorney will present you with the counteroffer and explain whether they think you should take it.
Determining the Multiplier
The moral logic of the multiplier is based on the idea that certain levels of suffering are more dramatic. If someone reached a 5X multiplier, the parties to the case are stating that the victim's pain, suffering, and trauma is life-altering in the worst possible way. Conversely, a 1.5X multiplier implies that the victim will likely be able to achieve a full and relatively pain-free recovery.
A lot of what lies in between has to do with the duration and intensity of the victim's suffering. There might be a high multiplier for an accident that led to extreme immediate pain even though it diminished quickly, for example. Similarly, lifelong levels of lower pain would probably entitle the victim to something more than a 1.5X multiplier.
Typically, a personal injury attorney asks a client to keep a journal. Each day, the client will make short notes in the journal about their pain, suffering, and trauma. Likewise, they'll try to rate each on a 10-point scale. The lawyer will submit the journal with the demand package to show how the client has suffered.
For more information, contact a local personal injury attorney.