Pain and Suffering in Personal Injury Lawsuits Explained

What exactly does pain and suffering mean? And how can it be accounted for in a personal injury case?

When filing for a personal injury claim, you may hear about the different types of damages you can sue for. Some are typical: medical expenses, lost compensation, damage to a car, etc. Some, however, require a bit more explanation, like “pain and suffering.”

We take a closer look at this term to demystify this type of damage.

Pain and suffering defined

As defined, pain and suffering are “the physical and mental distress suffered from an injury.” It is a legal term and can include general discomfort, physical pain, anxiety, or stress. As these are based on feeling, and therefore subjective, they are not easily quantifiable.

Pain and suffering belong to the ‘general damages’ category. However, pain and suffering can be determined using ‘special damages’ accrued in a personal injury case.

General damages: not specifically monetary–can include pain and suffering, loss of items, and emotional trauma. Since there is no specific monetary value attached to these, it can be harder to calculate how much a person can be compensated for.

  • Physical pain and suffering (pain)
  • Physical injury or impairment (disfigurement, disability)
  • Mental pain and anguish (anxiety, depression)
  • Lower quality of life (relying on others, lack of mobility)
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of a career

Special damages: damages with a monetary value, like medical expenses or lost wages. Keeping record is important for these types of damages because you have tangible proof of how much you lost because of the accident.

  • The exact cost of medical bills or lost wages
  • Loss of irreplaceable items
  • Costs of home care
  • Cost of domestic services
  • Costs to repair or replace items

How it’s determined

There are two types of methods to calculate pain and suffering:

  1. Multiplier method

Medical costs + (multiplier x medical costs = pain and suffering) = total damages

The idea behind this is that pain and suffering is worth at least 1.5 (or whatever multiplier you decide) times the cost of the injuries you obtained.

You would need to work with an attorney to determine the right “multiplier”–as it can range from 1.5 to 5, depending on the severity of the injuries.

2. ‘Per diem’ method (by the day)

This is a daily pain and suffering calculator until the patient reaches maximum medical improvement. Generally, amounts are determined based on your daily work earnings.

For example, if someone broke their foot, had to be in a cast for three months, and had to undergo three months of physical therapy until they were fully recovered, they’d be suffering for six months. So, if this person earns $60,000 or $240 a day, they’d ask for a settlement of $43,200, based on the 180 days of pain and suffering.

What you need to do

  1. Obtain written documentation

In order to determine pain and suffering, you will need written documentation about your injuries. This can either be:

  • From a doctor or mental health professional about the physical or mental pain you endured
  • Medication prescriptions you took during the process
  • Your own written testimony to the pain (an attorney can help with this)

2. Be thorough

If getting medically treated, be thorough and report any discomfort you are feeling to medical professionals (see #1 for obtaining written documentation). Once it is a part of your medical records, it can become a part of the case.

3. Consult with an attorney

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how much you would reasonably accept to settle your claim.

As a medical and legal referral service with a network of highly reputable physicians and attorneys, 1-866-ASK-DUKE will work on finding you the proper lawyer for your case. The service offers free case evaluations, then a free consultation with an attorney, in a low-pressure setting so you understand your options before proceeding with a claim, with no added stress.

As pain and suffering can be difficult to determine, this can help you move forward with the case and get properly compensated for physical or mental pain you suffered through.


If you have more questions about what a personal injury attorney can do for you, contact 1-866-ASK-DUKE today.