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Pain and Suffering Car Accident Settlement: How to Value Pain and Suffering Cases

Calculating Pain Suffering Damages Chicago Car Accident

One large part of the damages that you or a family member will receive after a Chicago, IL personal injury case or  auto accident is for pain and suffering. Based on what you experienced both at the time of the accident and afterwards, you may be eligible for financial compensation.

First, you will either need to reach a settlement with the insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

Attorneys Committed to Maximizing Compensation Available Under Illinois Law

When you have been injured in Illinois, the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are there for you to counsel and fight for you. As soon as you contact us and start the attorney-client relationship, we can help you with things such as dealing with the insurance company and negotiating a settlement agreement.

One of the important things about pain and suffering awards is knowing their dollar value, and this is where we help you as personal injury lawyers.

Physical Pain is Very Subjective & Can be Difficult to Convey to Juries & Insurance Companies

Pain and suffering is one of the most subjective parts of any personal injury case. Unlike economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages, juries make a subjective judgment as to how much they believe that you have suffered.

Oftentimes, five different juries can reach five different results in the same case when it comes to the dollar amount of your pain and suffering. Plaintiffs go into every case wondering how much the jury will award them if their case against the fault party goes to trial.

Similarly, when you have a personal injury claim, you will often end up disputing with the insurance how much they need to pay you for your pain and suffering. Obviously, the insurance company will try to low-ball you on their settlement offer since it is in their financial interest.

They are counting on the fact that you will not know the value of your own claim. Thus, they would be a subjective finger on the scale to depress how much they would pay you.

There Are No Caps on Pain and Suffering in Illinois

In order to understand the valuation of your case, an injured person should be aware of exactly what pain and suffering is. In Illinois, any type of discomfort or distress that you receive from a physical injury would be considered pain and suffering. This will be part of your personal injury claim.

Some states make efforts to put a cap on pain and suffering in personal injury cases.

For example, states such as Maryland have a limit on this type of damages to keep it to $875,000 in personal injury cases. Other states will have damage limitations depending on the type of the case.

Florida has no cap on pain and suffering limitations, but it does limit pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases to $500,000

For Illinois plaintiffs, the good news is that there are no caps on pain and suffering. This was not always the case in the state. Illinois was one of the states that had tried to limit these damages in medical malpractice cases.

Like Florida, Illinois had tried to cap pain and suffering damages to $500,000 per doctor and $1,000,000 per hospital in this type of personal injury case.

However, plaintiffs soon challenged whether this damage cap was constitutional. Eventually, this issue reached all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Court issued a decision that said that pain and suffering damage caps were unconstitutional. This decision was handed down in the case of LeBron vs. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

In this case, the doctor and hospital committed medical malpractice during a Cesarean section surgery that left the child with severe lifelong injuries, including cerebral palsy. As a result of the malpractice, the child now needed to be fed through a tube for her entire life.

The family challenged the cap on non-economic damages, claiming that it was unconstitutional. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed, saying that the law violated the separation of powers doctrine.

Specifically, the legislature was taking away power from the judicial branch of state government, which has the power to decide damage awards the way that it wants.

As a result of the decision in Lebron, there are no more caps on non-economic damages in Illinois. Thus, plaintiffs need to be familiar with how these damage awards are made and factors that are considered.

First, you should understand how the insurance company is looking at your pain and suffering for the settlement offer that they will make. They are not necessarily taking a look at the specific circumstances of your own case.

Instead, they have a number in mind as an amount of compensation that often has little to do with what you have experienced.

The Multiplier Method To Determine Compensation in a Personal Injury Case

Insurance companies will usually apply a multiplier to your other damages and use it to calculate pain and suffering. The multiplier that they choose for your settlement amount depends on the severity of your injuries.

For instance, if you have suffered minor injuries in an accident, the insurance company could assign a multiplier of two, meaning that you would receive $100,000 for pain and suffering if your other damages totaled $50,000.

If your injury was more severe, the multiplier for your insurance claim may be higher. If you suffered serious injuries, a multiplier of five or six may be possible.

This means that you would receive higher pain and suffering damages. However, in our experience, when the total damages in the case are considerable, there may be a lower multiplier for physical pain.

However, the multiplier means that much of the subjectivity is taken out of the process of computing your damages. In their search for objectivity, the insurance company may try to underpay you and keep you from getting the financial compensation that you deserve.

Even when the insurance adjusters are using a multiplier to try to estimate your injuries, you still need to prove your pain and suffering. Insurances are not in the business of writing any checks unless they are absolutely necessary, so they will insist on documentation of your injuries to give you any amount of money.

Per Diem Method for Pain and Suffering

Another way of calculating pain and suffering is by using the per diem method. This is when an insurer or jury calculates a certain amount of pain that they believe that an accident victim has suffered on a daily basis.

They will give you this amount for each day that they believe that you have experienced this pain until you have recovered from your injuries. This does not work well for all types of injuries, and might not fairly compensate for future pain and suffering.

Proving Your Settlement Value or Jury Award to Fully Compensate You For Pain and Suffering

With that in mind, here are some steps that you would take to prove your pain and suffering damages.

There are numerous things that can help you evidence your claim to the insurer or jury, and here are some of them:

  • Testimony from doctors about the serious nature of your injuries
  • Witness testimony as to what you experienced at the time of the accident
  • Medical records that detail the extent of your injuries
  • Your own testimony as to what you experienced
  • If this is a wrongful death lawsuit, all of this can apply for the pain and suffering that the person experienced.

Nearly every part of your medical records can be useful for a jury to decide the amount of your financial compensation. They can look at everything from the, surgical procedures you underwent to the medications that you take to the course of your therapy or number of doctor’s visits.

They might even examine your quality of life after the accident.

Non-Economic Damages are Calculated on Past, Present and Future Pain, Suffering & Disability

Another important note when considering pain and suffering valuation is that it does not just apply to the moment that you were injured. Pain and suffering is a lifelong concept. You can receive damages not just for what you experience at the moment of the accident, but for what you felt after the accident too.

These are not the only parts of a pain and suffering damage award. You can also be paid for the discomfort that you will experience in the future, even after your case is settled or decided. Accordingly, pain and suffering is past, present and future.

Again, the expert testimony will show how much you might suffer in the future. However, some injuries are considered so severe that you do not need expert testimony to prove future suffering. For example, in one case, the plaintiff’s testicles were crushed.

The court held that he did not need to prove future pain and suffering and could receive these damages without expert testimony.

In addition, a generic multiplier will not be applied to your case. Instead, it will factor in your own individual pain and suffering. For example, your discomfort could have been greater than the average person because your car accident injuries aggravated a prior arthritic condition.

Or, you may have suffered a physical disfigurement that uniquely impacted your life.

Based on the above, the most important thing in your case is the multiplier that it receives from the insurance company or the jury. Your personal injury attorney will need to be able to demonstrate the severity of your injuries and the impact that they have had on your life.

Types of Damages That You Can Be Paid for in a Personal Injury and Car Accident Case

Before we discuss actual cases, when you are considering how to value your own pain and suffering, here are some things that you can take into consideration that might increase the value of your claim:

  • Mental suffering accompanying your physical injury
  • Insomnia or loss of sleep from the pain
  • Humiliation or embarrassment from your injuries (mental anguish)
  • Disfigurement such as scarring or physical deformity
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Permanent Injury

Examples of the Value of Pain in Illinois MVA Cases

Here are some examples of how Illinois car accident lawsuits have treated the issue of pain and suffering. These are taken from actual settlements and jury verdicts.

$5,000,000 Plaintiff Verdict (Cook County, IL) 

In this case, the plaintiff became a paraplegic when a tire blew on their car and caused a car accident. The total amount of economic damages was $1.5 million. The jury broke down the non-economic damages into three parts, awarding the plaintiff $1 million apiece for disfigurement, pain and suffering and disability. These three would ordinarily be considered part of the pain and suffering award, so the multiplier was two.

$136,500 plaintiff verdict (DuPage County, IL)

The plaintiff was injured in a three-car accident. She suffered soft tissue neck and back injuries that left her with back pain for life. The pain and suffering part of the verdict was $50,000 when the medical bills in the case were just over $6,000. Most of this verdict compensated the plaintiff for other unspecified damages not described in the court records.

$197,000 plaintiff verdict (Kankakee County, IL)

The defendant suffered a lumbar strain and a spinal nerve injury in a three-car accident. Here, the court records indicate that the entire amount of the jury verdict was for pain and suffering.

$105,000 plaintiff verdict (Cook County, IL)

The plaintiff suffered a torn rotator cuff in the accident. The medical bills portion of the verdict was just over $37,000. The pain and suffering piece of the award was roughly $41,000. While a rotator cuff tear is not a minor injury, it is consistent with the explanation that more severe injuries would have higher multiples.

What the Illinois Supreme Court Says About Pain and Suffering Awards

Here is some of what the Illinois Supreme Court has said about pain and suffering that could impact your case:

  • Snover v. McGraw, 172 Ill. 2d 438, 217 Ill. Dec. 734, 667 N.E.2d 1310 (1996) - Even if there are pain-related medical expenses, the jury has the ability to refuse a pain and suffering award if the plaintiff has not shown any evidence of pain and suffering damages. Prior to this, some Illinois courts used a rule that if there was pain-related medical care, the jury automatically needed to make an award for pain and suffering.
  • Richardson v. Chapman, 175 Ill. 2d 98, 221 Ill. Dec. 818, 676 N.E.2d 621 (1997) - Sometimes, appeals courts can overturn pain and suffering awards as being excessive. In this case, the jury awarded a plaintiff $100,000 in pain and suffering when they received a laceration on their forehead. The Supreme Court found that it was an excessive award as it believed that a cut on the forehead could not cause that much pain and suffering, so it cut the jury’s pain and suffering award to $50,000

As you can see, pain and suffering can vary greatly between cases. It is almost an absolute certainty that you and the defendant or their insurance company will see things differently. This is why you need an experienced personal attorney on your side.

You will need to prove your damages with reasonable certainty to the jury if your car crash case goes to trial. An experienced personal injury attorney will know which factors and aspects of your injury can lead to a higher damages award. They will be able to make the strongest possible case that details your suffering since it will almost always be an issue for your claim.

FAQs About the Monetary Value of Your Pain and Suffering

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about car accident pain and suffering settlements and awards. Should you have additional questions, we welcome you to contact our law firm for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.

How Much Should You get for Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident?

It is impossible to give you a concrete number without knowing the specifics of your case. Some minor injuries could result in lower awards. As you saw above, serious injuries can lead to pain and suffering awards in the millions. It all depends on your own particular case, and we cannot make any promises other than that we will fight for you to maximize your recovery.

How do You Prove Pain and Suffering?

It depends on the complexity of your case. If your claim is smaller, medical documentation in the form of diagnosis and bills may be enough to show the insurance company what you should be paid. More complex cases may mean that you will need to file a lawsuit and have medical experts testify in court as to what you or a loved one endured in the car accident.

How do I get a Pain and Suffering Settlement Without a Lawyer?

Based on what we have been saying above, while you may get some pain and suffering settlement without legal representation, you may not get the fair value of your claim. The insurance company will not make their best offer first, and without a lawyer, you may have no way of knowing how much your claim is worth. Moreover, you may not be experienced in negotiating with the insurance company and would need the help and expertise that a lawyer provides.

Is Emotional Distress the Same as Pain and Suffering?

Emotional distress is considered non-economic damages that you’ve endured as a result of a loss. Unlike pain and suffering, emotional distress can impact an individual who was not directly involved in an accident. Under Illinois law, compensation for emotional distress can be recovered without a physical injury. Examples of emotional distress include: diminished quality of life, inability to partake in activities, loss of sleep, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and loss of relationships.

Car Accident Lawyers in Illinois Committed to Maximizing the Value of Your Case

Call the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers today to learn more about how we can help you with your car accident claim. It is better to call our law firm earlier in the process before you make any type of mistake that could determine whether you receive financial compensation and how much you get.

Not only is there a free consultation, but you owe us nothing for our legal advice and work unless we are able to help you recover in your car accident case.

Further Resources for Victims of MVA Cases

For information on pain and suffering in professional negligence cases, visit the practice areas below:

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