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How do California insurers calculate pain and suffering?

On Behalf of | Sep 2, 2021 | Car Accidents |

When you sustain injuries in a catastrophic car accident in California, said injuries will likely extend far beyond your physical health. You may also accrue “pain and suffering” damages.

Pain and suffering damages refer to invisible harms that drastically affect a person’s overall quality of life. They include but are not limited to psychological distress, actual pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of companionship. Pain and suffering damages are “non-economic,” meaning you do not have any bills or invoices to show insurers just how much they are worth. This begs the question, how do insurers, jurors or judges calculate the cost of pain and suffering? According to FindLaw, the most common method for doing so is the Pain and Suffering Multiplier Method.

The pain and suffering multiplier

The pain and suffering multiplier is an equation that the insurers use to determine the monetary value of an injured person’s pain and suffering. To come up with a value, the insurer will add up the total of all economic damages — such as medical expenses, lost wages and therapy costs — and multiply the sum by a number between 1.5 and 5, otherwise known as the multiplier. The multiplier basically indicates the degree of seriousness of one’s pain and suffering. In cases of catastrophic accidents, it may go as high as six or seven.

Factors that determine the appropriate multiplier

There are several factors insurers will consider to determine the appropriate multiplier, the biggest of which is the extent of your injuries. For instance, if your injuries are severe, your multiplier may be anywhere from four to seven. However, if you returned to normal life fairly quickly following your accident, it could be closer to one. Some other factors deciding parties will consider are as follows:

  • Clear proof that you did, in fact, experience pain and suffering following the incident
  • The obviousness of the other driver’s fault, and the egregiousness of his or her behavior leading up to the accident
  • The length of your recovery

There is no guarantee that you will receive the amount you calculate on your own. If an insurer determines that a multiplier is inappropriate, it can and may deny your claim. An experienced lawyer can help you gather appropriate documentation, assess the evidence and determine a fair value for your claim that includes an appropriate multiplier.