Stephen Hasner | Personal Injury | August 11, 2020
When another party injures you through negligence or intentional wrongdoing, the personal injury laws in Georgia allow you to seek monetary compensation for your damages. You can recover compensation for damages caused by car accidents, dog bites, slip and fall accidents, and other personal injury claims.
What Types of Damages Are Available for a Personal Injury Claim?
Damages in a defective product, medical malpractice, or other personal injury cases include both economic and non-economic damages. Your economic damages are the financial losses you sustain because of the injury, such as medical bills, lost wages, and the cost of personal care.
Non-economic damages include the physical, emotional, and mental suffering caused by the accident and your injury. They also include the actual physical harm to your body caused by the accident, such as scarring, disfigurement, and disabilities. Generally, catastrophic injuries that result in permanent impairments increase the value of non-economic damages.
Recovering compensation for pain and suffering damages can be challenging. Each person “suffers” differently after an injury, even when two people sustain the same injuries. Therefore, non-economic damages are subjective.
Georgia personal injury laws do not require parties to use a specific equation to calculate pain and suffering damages. Therefore, your pain and suffering damages are worth as much as an insurance company is willing to pay or a jury is willing to award.
Factors That Affect the Value of Non-Economic Damages
Because you cannot provide a jury or insurance company a “bill” for your pain and suffering, your attorney uses the facts and circumstances in your case to maximize the value of your non-economic damages.
Several factors can increase the amount of compensation you might receive for pain and suffering damages. Some of those factors include:
- The duration of your recovery
- Whether you sustained permanent impairments, disfigurement, or disability
- The impact your injuries had on your daily activities
- Whether you can return to work and activities you enjoyed
- The severity and type of your injuries, such as complete paralysis versus a broken bone
- The pain associated with the types of injuries you sustained
- The interference with the enjoyment of life
- The fear, anxiety, stress, and depression caused by your injuries
An experienced personal injury lawyer understands how to use the facts in your case to build a strong argument for maximum compensation of non-economic damages. Because both the attorney and the insurance company are aware of the average amount juries in your area award for pain and suffering damages, your lawyer can generally negotiate a settlement of pain and suffering damages that is fair based on the facts of your case.
Two Common Methods of Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
In some cases, the parties agree on a specific method for calculating pain and suffering damages. Two common methods used for valuing non-economic damages in injury cases are the multiplier method and the per diem method.
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method is one of the most common methods of valuing pain and suffering damages. It uses your medical bills as a basis for pain and suffering damages.
A multiplier is chosen based on various factors, like the factors listed above. Generally, the more severe your injuries and the longer it takes you to recover, the higher the multiplier. Multipliers are usually a number between 1.5 and five.
The total of your medical bills multiplied by the multiplier equals the value of your pain and suffering damages. For example, if the multiplier is three and your medical bills total $50,000, your pain and suffering damages would equal $150,000 ($50,000 x 3).
The insurance company argues for the lowest possible multiplier, while your attorney builds a case to justify the highest possible multiplier. It is not a perfect system, but it can work in some cases.
The Per Diem Method
The per diem method is similar in some ways to the multiplier method. However, the basis for your pain and suffering damages is the number of days between the date of your injury and the date your physician releases you.
An amount is chosen for the per diem. The amount is based on factors like those listed above. Therefore, your per diem is higher if you sustained severe or traumatic injuries that resulted in surgery, therapy, and significant disruption to your daily life.
The value of your pain and suffering damages is calculated by multiplying the per diem by the number of days it took you to recover.
For example, your doctor released you 250 days after a motorcycle accident. Your per diem is $200. The value of your pain and suffering damages would be $50,000 ($200 x 250).
Choosing a Method to Value Pain and Suffering Damages
The insurance company chooses whatever method of valuing non-economic damages that results in the lowest amount for you. Your personal injury lawyer works to increase that amount to the maximum amount that a jury would potentially award in the case. Having an attorney with trial experience can be very helpful when negotiating a settlement for pain and suffering damages.