How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering?

Whenever a person injures another person through negligence, carelessness, or recklessness, the injured party can recoup his or her losses through a personal injury claim against the negligent party. In many personal injury cases, plaintiffs can secure compensation for their medical expenses, property damaged in the incident, and their lost wages if an injury prevents them from working. Another form of compensation is for pain and suffering, and, while this may sound too abstract to quantify with a dollar figure, pain and suffering plays a crucial role in many legal battles.


The justice system recognizes that some experiences are worse than they may at first appear. For example, a person may suffer a gunshot and make a complete recovery, but the journey to that complete recovery is likely full of physical pain, emotional turmoil from reliving the incident, and the general stress created by the situation. The United States justice system helps ensure individuals who suffer traumatic, exceedingly painful, or severely damaging injuries can collect reasonable compensation for these experiences.

Pain and suffering can refer to physical suffering, emotional distress, psychological trauma, and other mental injuries including insomnia, grief, anxiety, and even the loss of enjoyment of life. Almost every personal injury case will include pain and suffering damages to some extent. Cases involving very severe injuries, particularly those that lead to permanent damage or disability, often include large pain and suffering awards.


There is no one rule for determining pain and suffering amounts. Some plaintiffs’ attorneys will use their clients’ medical expense compensation as a starting point and then multiply that figure according to the severity of the injury. For example, if the plaintiff incurs $10,000 in medical expenses for a significant bone fracture or multiple injuries, the Philadelphia injury lawyer may decide that the pain and suffering amount is worth four times that amount, or $40,000. Other attorneys may use a per diem model, which argues for a set amount per day starting on the date of the injury-causing accident and ending once the plaintiff has reached his or her maximum medical recovery.

Insurance companies have their own methods for determining acceptable amounts of compensation for pain and suffering. Typically, insurance companies refer to computer software that will pull data from various aspects of the case to determine a fiscally reasonable and situationally appropriate figure. These assessments will usually factor in the plaintiff’s medical prognosis, his or her treatment plan, and the type of care the plaintiff received. The insurance company will also consider how long it took the plaintiff to seek treatment. If the insurer believes the plaintiff’s treatment was excessive or some of the claimed damages were unnecessary expenses, the insurer may then deny part of the claim.


Any documentation, recorded statements, or other evidence that demonstrates the extent of the pain and suffering a plaintiff experienced, can help justify a claim for pain and suffering compensation. Plaintiffs’ attorneys will also usually call on expert witnesses from the medical community to provide the court with an educated opinion about the plaintiff’s injuries. These medical experts may also attest to the long-term effects an injury may have and may influence other aspects of a plaintiff’s compensation, such as their ability to collect long-term disability coverage for a permanent disability.