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Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident Case

Updated February 23, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Compensation for Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident

Car accidents can be stressful and harmful, affecting your physical abilities, finances, mental health, occupation, and overall well-being. Every year, about three million non-fatal injuries occur due to car accidents. If you have been involved in a crash, there is a chance that you will have to miss out on work, cover medical expenses, and handle insurance claims. On top of that, the emotional toll of accidents can be overwhelming.

If this sounds familiar to you, then seeking assistance from a car accident attorney for a pain and suffering settlement may be in your best interest. Getting compensation can alleviate some of the stressors that result from car accidents. There are two factors that can determine compensation: special damages and general damages.

Special Damages vs. General Damages

Special damages are easily quantifiable. They are measured by the amount of money it takes to cover losses. Examples include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Vehicle repairs

General damages are non-economic. Since they are intangible, they are more difficult to measure with a dollar amount. Examples include:

  • Loss of companionship
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Physical disfigurement or impairment
  • Pain and suffering

Though these factors are palpable, it is hard to determine how much pain and suffering is worth because the grief felt may seem incomparable to any monetary amount. Yet, if you are suffering, indemnification can potentially ease that suffering.

What Is Considered Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident?

Pain and suffering refers to the physical and mental pain victims experience after a car accident. Pain and suffering in legal terms is getting compensation that covers the overall loss of comfort, ability, happiness, and opportunity that follows serious injuries.

Pain and Suffering Examples

Pain and suffering includes the mental and physical damages endured because of a car accident. Because mental and physical aspects of our functioning are interconnected, effects of injuries overlap in mental and physical damages. Physical pain can oftentimes take a toll on how our mental health functions. Pain and suffering examples include:

  • Long-term disability
  • Shorter life expectancy
  • Lasting physical limitations
  • Physical pain and discomfort
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Physical changes such as scarring and amputations
  • Changes in sleep
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Overall mood changes

Judges and juries commonly take into consideration various factors of pain and suffering when considering compensation, including:

  • Age of victim
  • Long-term damages
  • Effect on enjoyment of life
  • Future problems
  • Mental health

Car insurance payout for pain and suffering can also rely on evidence your car accident attorney presents. The above factors are taken into account and having sufficient evidence to prove their impacts will only make your case stronger.

How to Prove Pain and Suffering From a Car Accident

Since compensation is not a tangible measurable, pain and suffering must be proven to argue for fair compensation. Gathering evidence after a car accident is always a good idea for both special damages and general damages.

Documentation that helps your attorney argue for fair pain and suffering compensation includes:

  • Medical records
  • Journal entries
  • Witness statements
  • Photographs

Detailed Journaling

Since pain and suffering includes the longevity and anticipated persistence of the effects, collecting evidence can be something that happens over a period of time. Keeping daily journal entries to track your experience over a length of time can support your case for proving the intensity of your pain and suffering. Tracking your experience shows the insurance adjuster, judge, or jury how your injuries impact your everyday life.

You can write about experiences like:

  • Duration, level, and location of your pain (try putting your pain on a numerical scale)
  • Frustrations
  • Feelings surrounding needing help with bathing or personal hygiene
  • Fear of lifelong disability and pain
  • Sadness, depression, or anxiety
  • Heartache from missing special occasions, family gatherings, or holidays
  • Intensity of mental and physical anguish

Medical Records

Medical records help to support any monetary compensation needed, but how can they help prove general damages? For pain and suffering cases, medical records can significantly support your claim because those records include a doctor’s notes.

Measuring the pain of physical damages, especially as they relate to mental impacts, can be affirmed by the doctor’s comments on severity. If you visit a therapist or seek counseling, keeping track of dates and topics of discussion also count as relevant documentation.

Witness Statements

It’s typical to use witness statements at the scene of an accident as evidence, yet the type of witnesses can broaden as your pain and suffering continues. Collecting statements from family members, friends, neighbors, and caretakers can support your case. Those close to you can describe how your life has been impacted. They are witness to personality changes and physical limitations due to your accident.


Documenting your pain and suffering journey through photographs and videos can help insurance adjusters and judges visualize the effects of the car crash. Presenting visual evidence can be a strong testament to pain and suffering post-accident.

Calculating Pain and Suffering From a Car Accident

Unlike specialty damages like medical bills and lost wages, pain and suffering is not as easy to calculate into a monetary amount. There are several options for your attorney to quantify your pain and suffering. Two of the most common methods both your attorney and insurance adjusters will use to measure pain and suffering are:

  • Multiplier method
  • Per diem method

The Multiplier Method

The most common method for quantifying pain and suffering claims in auto accidents is the multiplier method. This is based on the amount of your specialized damages:

  • Add up the sum of all specialized damages. These can be calculated by any bills that contribute to overall economic loss
  • Multiply the number of that sum within the range of 1.5 to 5

The multiplier is the number by which you multiply the sum. The amount of the multiplier depends on factors relating to your case. 1.5 is the low end of the spectrum; 5 being the most severe.

For example, the medical bills and other special damages of a car crash victim total $50,000. With an estimated 4 on the pain and suffering scale, general damages amount to $200,000. The total combined award for both special and general damages in this case would be $250,000.

The Per Diem Method

The per diem method means the daily rate value of your pain and suffering. “Per diem” translates to “per day” in Latin; it is meant to translate the pain you live with on a daily basis into a dollar amount.

The best way to put this method into practice is to calculate your daily earnings. This approach is trickier to apply for long-term injuries. Even with short term injuries, calculating this number is dependent by how long an injury is expected to last. Whiplash may last several weeks, but could also have long-term memory effects.

Attorneys can use data from past cases to justify this method. Speak with your car accident attorney about the best method to approach for receiving the compensation you deserve.

Average Pain and Suffering Settlement for Car Accident

Every car accident is different, thus different settlements ensue for each collision and the damages that occur. Determining pain and suffering is based off of the calculations discussed above. Determining the cost of the payout is based on how much the multiplier is in the case. The actual cost will be determined on factors to justify the multiplier by presenting evidence.

Evidence is crucial in pain and suffering cases. Proving that your discomfort is liable for compensation can be difficult and subjective. Work with an experienced lawyer to advocate for you, both in qualifying and justifying your pain and suffering.

Payouts for auto accident pain and suffering cases can be quite high, so some states put caps on the amount of money a person can receive in a settlement or case. Indiana puts caps on medical malpractice and in some cases of wrongful death. Speak with your attorney for a more in-depth look into specific compensation caps for your case.

Indiana Insurance Payouts for Car Accidents Pain and Suffering

Indiana is a fault state, meaning auto insurance payouts are given based on the percentage of a person at fault. Some policies such as liability with higher coverage may allow you to sue for pain and suffering. If you are at fault, then your insurance will cover damages for the injured driver.

How to Sue for Pain and Suffering Car Accident

The process for suing in a pain and suffering claim in auto accidents involves negotiating a settlement with the other party involved. If either party disagrees on the requested compensation, then the case may go to trial, where your attorney represents you in court.

When you get into a car accident and sue for pain and suffering, settlement negotiations conclude faster than litigation. If you receive a low offer from the defendant’s car insurance company and would like to counter the offer, our attorneys will be with you to help get the compensation you deserve.

Working With Car Accident Lawyers

Reaching out to car accident lawyers in Indianapolis can be beneficial in the long run. Attorneys are responsible for presenting evidence to justify your pain and suffering after a car accident. They calculate your damages to help you receive the highest amount of compensation possible. Pain and suffering after an auto accident can be staggering. The attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham will help you each step of the way. Contact us today for a no-obligation case evaluation.

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