How to Calculate Pain and Suffering and Increase Your Total Injury Settlement



In personal injury claims, pain and suffering represents the emotional distress (also called mental anguish) a person endures after being injured by the negligent or willful acts of another. Emotional distress can include one or more of the following:

  • Actual pain and discomfort, whether temporary or permanent
  • Depression, anxiety, memory loss, or other emotional disorders
  • Loss of sleep, irritability
  • Inability to perform job duties
  • Inability to play with your children, attend their activities, hug or lift them up
  • Loss of consortium (inability to be intimate with your spouse)
  • Feelings of guilt

Calculating Pain and Suffering Reimbursement

The traditional method used to calculate pain and suffering settlements is by using a multiple of your actual costs (discussed below). These can include property damage, lost wages, medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and other measurable amounts. These actual costs are referred to as your special damages, or specials, and are in a different category than pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is referred to as your general damages.

While totaling the amount of your specials may be a relatively simple task, coming up with a figure which fairly represents your pain and suffering can be a challenge. Pain and suffering can be separated into two categories:

  1. The pain and suffering you endure from the time of the injury through the completion of medical treatment and therapy. It ends at some point. Its duration can be measured.

  2. The pain and suffering you endure from the time of the injury, through the course of medical treatment and into the indefinite future. Its duration is unknown and open-ended.

The first consideration for calculating your settlement demand is which category your pain and suffering falls into. If its duration was limited to the time between the injury and completion of treatment, your demand will be lower. If it continues into the future indefinitely, your demand will be higher. Either way, you must convince the insurance adjuster of its negative effect on your enjoyment of life.

You can't just demand money for your pain and suffering. You have to give the adjuster a reasonable and credible basis to justify the amount, or your demand will be rejected. Your reasons must be logical and based on fact.

When responding to settlement demand letters, most adjusters expect to add a small amount of compensation to cover pain and suffering. The adjuster wants to settle the claim and close the case. An unknowing claimant might accept the amount offered and move on. Attorneys and informed claimants aren't as quick to take the first offer. They know persuasive arguments can raise pain and suffering amounts.

The Multiple Method

The traditional method used by attorneys and adjusters to calculate pain and suffering reimbursement is the 1 to 5x multiple method. The multiple method takes the amount of your specials and multiplies them by anywhere from one to five times, and possibly higher. The multiple will be raised or lowered by the adjuster according to:

  • The type of pain and discomfort
  • Its severity and duration
  • Your persuasive abilities

The majority of personal injury claims are settled within the one to five times range. Soft tissue injuries like whiplash, minor muscle, tendon, and ligament sprains are often multiplied by one-and-a-half. Broken bones or herniated disks range between three and four. Serious or debilitating injuries like scarring or head trauma can be multiplied by five or more. Permanent injuries and disabilities are in a category of their own.

Raising the Multiple

Before you begin to calculate your pain and suffering amount, give considerable thought to the arguments you'll use to convince the adjuster to raise the multiple. You'll list those reasons in your settlement demand letter and later rely on them in negotiations. Your arguments must be logical and based on as much evidence as you can provide.

Some reasons to raise your settlement amount include:

  • The injury caused you to sink into depression, and you have a psychological narrative from a psychologist or psychiatrist detailing your symptoms.

  • You weren't able to perform your job duties adequately, and letters from your doctor and employer confirm it.

  • You weren't able to sleep, and you have copies of prescriptions for sleeping pills as evidence.

To succeed in raising the multiple, you must be able to put your pain and suffering into words that are understandable, reasonable, and persuasive to the adjuster. Take time to think about what you lost and how you suffered as a result of the injury. Write down specific instances of how your injury interfered with your daily life. Be open and honest, even if some of the information is personal.

Make it clear whether your pain and suffering was a specific duration or if it will continue indefinitely. Open-ended injuries that haven't healed yet or may never heal should have higher multiples than short-term injuries. You only have one opportunity to settle your claim, so don't hold back.

The better prepared you are to convince the adjuster of the depth of your pain and suffering, the higher your multiple will go. The higher the multiple, the greater your reimbursement. To accurately calculate your pain and suffering settlement, you must be realistic. Fabricating or exaggerating experiences can damage your credibility and harm your case.

Example 1: Loss of Family Participation

You're a parent who's always been involved in your child's school activities, and now your injury prohibits you from your usual involvement. Missing a child's activities can result in depression, anxiety, guilt and more. You can't make up that time. Whether you missed your daughter's soccer playoff game, or your son's piano recital, you've lost that wonderful moment in time.

What are those family moments worth?

Example 2: Depression

You were injured in June and suffered pain and discomfort through the end of your physical therapy in November. Before the injury you played golf, enjoyed dinners with your wife, and were otherwise enjoying a peaceful and rewarding life. During the six months of medical treatment and therapy, the pain prohibited you from playing golf, dining out, and enjoying intimate evenings with your wife. You suffered depression and irritability for six months.

What is six months of depression worth?

Example 3: Back Pain and Job Loss

Before the injury, your job required you to travel to various cities. The injury resulted in herniated disks in your back. You've undergone treatment, including surgery, but your back continues to cause severe pain and discomfort. The doctors told you additional surgeries may not relieve the pain and might possibly worsen it. Due to the pain you can't sit in a plane or car for more than 30 minutes. As a result, you lost your job and the income you and your family depend on.

What's being unable to travel and losing your job worth?

Example 4: Increased Health Insurance Rates

When another driver ran a red light and collided with your car, you suffered severe whiplash and other injuries. An MRI showed torn muscles in your shoulder and arm, and a CAT scan revealed internal bleeding. Your pain and discomfort remained well past the completion of your medical treatment and therapy.

Several months later you applied for medical insurance, but were turned down because of your pre-existing condition and hospitalization. You applied to another insurance company, and although you were accepted, your rates are higher as a result of the injuries you suffered.

What are the unknown future costs of your injuries worth?

A claims adjuster isn't going to add extra money automatically. Pain and suffering are different for every individual, so you have to first determine how your injuries affected your lifestyle and emotional well-being. Then you have to present reasonable and credible arguments to convince the adjuster. That's when you'll see your multiple go up.

Print Friendly and PDF

How Much Is Your Case Worth?

Find out now with a FREE case review...

Ask a Pain and Suffering Question

Unfortunately, we can only accept questions from the U.S.A. and we can't guarantee a response. Please proofread your submission, and DON'T WRITE IN ALL CAPS!

Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney.

Give Your Question a Title

Previous Questions & Answers...

Using my husband's case as evidence of future pain and medical expenses? 
I was rear ended by a Tuxedo delivery van. My neck, shoulder, and back felt pain within an hour after the collision. After approximately 6 months of chiropractic …

What multiplier should I use for settlement demand? 
My husband and I were in a car accident where the other driver was 100 percent at fault. My husband wasn't hurt, but I was diagnosed with whiplash, upper …

Settlement amount for neck sprain? 
I was rear ended and the other driver was 100 percent at fault. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment. They found nothing broken, but …

What's the maximum amount I can ask for pain and suffering? 
I want to know the maximum amount that I can get for pain and suffering, that's allowed in CT, for me to ask from the insurance company of the driver who …

Settlement for DUI wreck with commercial insurance? 
I was hit head-on by someone who was arrested for DUI and had commercial vehicle insurance. They were 100% at fault. I am now getting treatment for my …

Settlement for permanent lymphedema? 
The hospital is trying to settle with me for an incident that caused me to have to have another abdominal surgery, and caused permanent lymphedema in my …

Compensation for pain due to brachealplasty surgery? 
I had bilateral brachealplasty surgery at a major hospital in Chicago. I filed a claim directly with the hospital as time limitations on filing a suit …

What's considered "reasonable" damages? 
I was involved in a vehicle accident causing me to have neck and shoulder pain. While not debilitating, I continue to experience neck and shoulder pain. …

Can I get more than the policy limit? 
I was sitting at a red light in Omaha, Nebraska in December 2012 when I was rear ended by a young man not paying attention. I went to the hospital after …

Amount for prolonged pain? 
In December of 2012 we were driving when a car ahead of us pulled into a driveway. It then backed up to turn around and in the process the driver backed …

How to value damage to my reproductive tract from a transvaginal mesh? 
We all are probably tired of the ads on TV about problems with Transvaginal Mesh (TVM), but in my case the damages are real and unrelenting. In my case …

Negotiating a whiplash settlement... 
I will try to be brief. I was rear ended in January and ambulanced to the hospital. I had whiplash and a neck strain. I wore a neck brace 24-7 for 11 days. …

My 3 year old son was hit by an unlicensed, speeding driver... 
Me and my two children (3 and 5 year olds) were getting out of a car on a one way street. My 3 year old son stood next to my car when a car that was speeding …

Pain Compensation in Illinois? 
My wife was rear-ended while driving home from work. The vehicle was towed and in the repair shop for about a week while she used a rental. She was taken …

Is this a lowball settlement offer? 
We were rear ended while riding in our car. My son did not go to the doctors until 2 days after the accident. He was still sore 7 days after the accident. …

Settlement for Serious Injuries from Collision with a Business Vehicle? 
I was driving on a highway and a pickup truck pulling a trailer with 4-wheelers on it (it was a business vehicle) pulled out in front of me. We had an …

Is this a Fair Pain and Suffering Offer in South Carolina? 
I was heading to lunch from work on August 20, 2012, merging into the middle turn lane to go left in my Isuzu Rodeo. This Grand Jeep Cherokee pulled out …

Settlement for Constant Pain? 
While driving home one night I was stopped at a light and was rear ended by a man going 40mph. I had instant pain in my back and was taken from the scene …

Is pain and suffering based on total medical costs or just out of pocket expense? 
I live in North Carolina. I was rear ended by a SUV traveling 55 mph on impact. My car was a Total Loss and I had just paid it off - a 2009 Nissan. I keep …

How much in pain and suffering for fall in a restaurant bathroom? 
I fell in a restroom at a restaurant due to excessive water on the floor. There were no caution signs up. My grand daughter watched me fall as well as …

Severe Back Pain from a Car Wreck... 
In January 2010 I got into a car wreck and the other driver was at fault. I experienced severe pains on my back. I went to one hospital and they took hours …

Pain from Ankle Screws after Car Accident... 
Several yrs ago my husband was involved in an car accident. His ankle was broken and had to be fused. He was in a lot of pain but the doctors said nothing …

Restroom door injured my son's foot... 
My son opened the restroom door in a department store to walk out and as he proceeded out the door it closed very quickly on his foot and tore off the …

How Much Pain and Suffering Should I Claim? 
I live in California and had an auto accident. The other party was found 100% at fault and they had insurance. My vehicle was totaled and I broke 3 metacarpals …

Click here to write your own.

What's Normal Dog Attack Compensation? 
I am a delivery person and was attacked by a dog that broke their invisible fence. When I was backing away from him I ended up tripping on a trailer hitch …

Traffic Wreck Settlement Offer... 
My husband was involved in a traffic wreck where he was at fault. I was a passenger in the vehicle. Our insurance company paid for all medical bills and …

Side Impact Crash Results in Multiple Fractures... 
My mother was in a side impact crash when driving her car. She stopped at a red light, when the light turned green she looked and was almost 1/4 of the …

What's a fair settlement for pain and suffering with a lower back injury? 
On one day in January 2010 I was on a lunch break from work. I was stopped at a stop sign when another car came up from behind and simply didn't stop. …

Victim of Uninsured Motorist... 
My daughter and her friend were the victim of an uninsured motorist when his vehicle passed a red light and hit them. My daughter and her friend were …

Can I get compensated for pain in an automobile accident insurance settlement? 
I am 80 years old. I was the passenger in an automobile accident, another vehicle rear ended our vehicle. I plan on pursing an automobile accident insurance …

What Percent of Medical Costs is Typical for Pain and Suffering? 
I'd like to know what a typical pain and suffering percentage is won, based on medical costs. I've heard 3 to 4 times, I've also heard 10 times. I've never …

Should I sue for my son stepping on a nail on a playground? 
Last week my son entered a playground at the Stamford Nature Center. There was a wooden deck board pulled up with the nails up in the air. My son stepped …

Are Family Expenses Covered in Pain and Suffering? 
I had a Traffic accident in Illinois/Springfield on February 17th 2010. A car ran a red light and hit my car. I have a witness that confirms this information …

How Much Can I Get for a Back Injury? 
I was sitting still at a red light. A lady hit me from behind so hard she knocked me into another vehicle. I went to the Doctor with severe pain and …

Click here to write your own.

> > Increase Pain and Suffering Amounts