How Much Is Pain and Suffering Worth in a Car Accident?

April 12, 2023 | By DJC Law Attorneys
How Much Is Pain and Suffering Worth in a Car Accident?

The overarching principle in a car accident case is that the driver responsible for your injuries is legally obligated to pay for all the harm they have caused you. You have a legal right to total compensation as soon as you prove they were to blame for the accident. However, there are many barriers that you will need to overcome before you can reach that point. Even if there is little doubt that you are entitled to financial compensation, insurance companies can cause complications during settlement negotiations.

It is critical to hire a lawyer to handle your case, and you should do so as soon as possible after your car accident. Even if you do not believe that you are in any shape to go through the legal process, you still need to begin seeking financial compensation for your injuries. You must immediately hire a lawyer because the size of your settlement check (and your ability to receive one at all) can be on the line. You can face serious financial consequences if you do not have an experienced car accident attorney in Austin because insurance companies can and will attack your legal rights.

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Car Accident Injuries that Cause Pain and Suffering

Car Accident Pain and Suffering Claims

Car accident injuries can have many effects on your life, and many of them can cause you pain and suffering that can last a long time after the vehicles are fixed and other people seem to have moved on with their lives. If you are feeling pain and suffering of any type, be sure to talk to your lawyer about this, as they can include this information in your claim.


One of the most common injuries in car accidents is whiplash. This happens when the neck suddenly jerks back and forth, causing strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Whiplash can have many symptoms, such as neck pain, stiffness, headaches, and even cognitive difficulties. The pain and discomfort of whiplash can last for weeks or months, making it hard to do daily activities and work.

Broken bones

Another common car crash injury is broken bones. The impact of a car collision can cause fractures in different parts of the body, such as arms, legs, ribs, or even the spine. These injuries can require much medical treatment, including surgeries and physical therapy. They can cause long-term pain and mobility issues. The emotional side of dealing with a broken bone can also be serious, as it can limit your work or activities you enjoy.

Traumatic brain injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are also common in car accidents. These happen when the head suffers a violent jolt or blow, leading to brain tissue damage. TBIs can have long-lasting effects on cognitive function, memory, and emotional well-being. These injuries can cause physical pain as well as mental and emotional suffering. Some people are never the same after a TBI, and they have ongoing symptoms, such as headaches, confusion, dizziness, or changes in mood or behavior.

There are many other injuries that can cause physical pain, emotional difficulties, or likely both for car accident victims. Remember you can seek damages for these effects in addition to financial losses.

You Can Receive Both Economic and Non-Economic Damages in a Car Accident Case

Your car accident damages consist of several elements, and there are two general classes of damages in any car accident case. The first category covers the actual financial costs of the accident and your injuries, where you may have had to pay for medical treatment. In addition, you may have been unable to earn the total amount of money that you otherwise could have had you not suffered an injury. These damages are your economic costs, and they can be considerable. Insurance companies must pay you for the damages you have suffered and those you will sustain. Occasionally, there might also be punitive damages, but they are rare in a car accident case.

Economic damages alone are hard enough to value. Insurance companies create as much doubt as possible to make your case cloudier. They want you to be grateful for whatever they will offer you and accept something less than what you legally deserve.

Your Post-Accident Experience Determines Non-Economic Damages

How Much Is Pain and Suffering Worth in a Car Accident

There is a second category of damages called non-economic damages. These damages are based on what you have endured since the accident and will continue to go through in the future. You are in physical pain on account of your accident injuries, and you are likely going through several other things daily. Your situation and the fact that you are dealing with discomfort and uncertainty can also cause you depression and anxiety.

Other parts of pain and suffering damages can include:

  • Loss of enjoyment of the life that you have before the accident
  • Emotional distress
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Embarrassment and humiliation

Your Pain and Suffering Damages Can Be Considerable

Many people have no idea how vast their pain and suffering damages are. They may not even be familiar enough to know they can legally be entitled to a significant amount of money. When you hire a car accident lawyer, you learn that pain and suffering can be a large part of your settlement check. 

You Need a Car Accident Lawyer to Value Pain and Suffering Damages Properly

You may not understand how to value pain and suffering or know that you can get paid non-economic damages for your injuries. Insurance companies will happily take advantage of what you do not know.

Only an experienced car accident attorney can properly value your pain and suffering. They have worked with many injured clients like you, and they understand the legal concepts that underlie these damages.

Pain and Suffering Damages Depend on How You Have Suffered

Post-Accident Experience

Your pain and suffering damages are unique to you because each accident victim responds to their physical injuries differently. For example, you can be more susceptible to painful physical or emotional effects of your accident based on your previous health.

In any car accident case, the legal rule is that "you take your victim as you find them." The responsible driver must pay for what they have done to you, as opposed to how an average person may have been affected by what happened. If you had a previous injury that the car accident aggravated, or you were already dealing with depression, the responsible driver must still pay for it.

Insurance Companies Use So-Called Objective Formulas to Cost You Money

Insurance companies do their best to make pain and suffering damages as "objective" as possible. The problem is that they take you and your experience out of the equation to the fullest extent possible. Insurance companies do not want to know about you because the more they learn, the more they may have to pay you, so they try to short-circuit that process through calculations.

How the Multiplier Method Works to Measure Pain and Suffering

The multiplier method is the most common method insurance companies use to calculate pain and suffering damages. Here, they apply a multiplier to the amount of your medical expenses based on the severity of your injuries. Insurance companies often use this calculation when you have suffered permanent injuries or those that will stay with you for a very long time.

The more serious your injury, the higher the multiple. For example, a multiplier may be closer to one if you have suffered a fracture or a soft tissue injury. If you have suffered a brain or spinal cord injury, the multiplier may approach five. As you can see, the damage caused by pain and suffering can be considerable. If you have suffered a severe injury with lifetime medical costs over $1 million, you can expect several million dollars in pain and suffering damages.

However, insurance companies may downplay the severity of your injuries so they can use a lower multiplier. Remember that this calculation of your pain and suffering damages is just a number to settle your case, and you do not have to accept the offer. The key is to know your case and the legal process so you can push back when necessary.

How Insurance Companies Use the Per Diem Method

Damages Calculation

The other primary method insurance companies may use to value your pain and suffering is the per diem method. They may use this calculation when you have an injury you will soon recover from. This method may be standard in soft tissue and fracture injuries.

Using the per diem method will also result in a drastic underpayment of your pain and suffering damages. Never underestimate the ability of insurance companies to downplay the severity of your injuries. You know the truth because you are living with the effects of your car accident injuries every single day. Insurance companies understand your situation because they have reviewed your medical records yet continue devaluing your damages to save money. They will both underestimate the severity of your injuries and how long it will take you to recover from them.

Insurance Companies Do Not Want to Hear Your Side of the Story

One of the challenges that you encounter when dealing with pain and suffering is that you are asking the insurance companies to take your word for something that they consider to be subjective. You are the one reporting how you have been affected by your car accident, and insurance companies will pay you based on what you report. You can see how they will do everything in their power to keep you from getting total compensation for your pain and suffering.

Count on Insurance Companies to Dispute Everything

Insurance companies will downplay the scope and extent of your injuries. They may say that you are not as hurt as you claim, no matter what your medical records say, because they have an incentive to do so. Insurance companies believe they can trivialize your injuries because they think that it is your word versus theirs. Since you have the burden of proof to demonstrate your damages, they may claim that you have failed to show that you have suffered from your injury.

You Can Reject a Settlement Offer and Keep Negotiating

Remember that "no" is the most important word that you can say when you are trying to negotiate car accident compensation. Insurance companies can make you a settlement offer, and your lawyer will review the figures they put in front of you. It is only an offer and is not the final determination of your car accident compensation because insurance companies lack that power.

Your lawyer will advise you to fully document what you are going through after the car accident. Having contemporaneous documentation can help if you are involved in a dispute with insurance companies. They fear litigation, so they will need to listen to you to an extent.

Your lawyer can also submit your counteroffer to the insurance company as a demand letter, stating what you believe you deserve and why. The insurance company will review your demand letter and may raise its settlement offer because that is how negotiations transpire. Eventually, you may move closer to an agreement, although it may take some time and brinkmanship from your lawyer.

You Can Always Sue and Have the Jury Decide the Matter

Personal Injury Lawyer, Dan Christensen
Dan Christensen, Austin Car Accident Attorney

Your last resort is always having a jury decide how much you deserve in compensation. Assuming that you can prove liability to the jury members' satisfaction, they will determine the amount of your damages. You can get more from a jury award than insurance companies give you in a settlement, which is why they fear litigation. A jury can be a wild card, especially when dealing with human emotions.

You Only Need to Pay Your Car Accident Lawyer When You Win Your Case

Legal help is less expensive than you think and is entirely free up to the time when you receive a settlement or jury award. Your lawyer's compensation comes directly from the money you receive from the insurance company. Until then, you have no obligation to pay a car accident lawyer, making it easy to afford the legal advocacy needed in a car accident case.