Any incident that causes serious personal injury is one expensive, unfortunate event. As if being slammed by a wayward vehicle weren’t bad enough, next you’re slammed with the onslaught of medical bills. Calculating personal injury settlements isn’t easy. You plan to seek compensation for the cost of every service listed on these conveniently itemized statements, as well as for the work you’ve missed.
But what about the anxiety and chronic insomnia that now plague you? What about the activities you’ve had to give up? Does no bill or pay stub amount to no cost? As the victim, you know the answer is absolutely not—but you wonder how to put a dollar figure on these other life-altering losses.
Clearly, determining total damages for a personal injury settlement takes more than a stack of papers and a calculator, but it can be successfully done. What it does take are the right knowledge, skills and tools.
Your Personal Injury Claim: Dividing the Damages
One of the first steps in a personal injury case is to categorize your losses into two primary types:
- Special (or economic) damages are those you can easily calculate. That means medical bills, lost wages, property damage and any other quantifiable losses.
- General (or noneconomic) damages are the trickier ones. These mainly refer to pain and suffering, which include issues like those mentioned in the example above—anxiety, insomnia and an inability to do certain activities—as well as ongoing physical pain or difficulty. In essence, if the incident has caused significant emotional distress or affected your quality of life, you would cite these as general damages.
Once you and your personal injury attorney have determined the total recoverable amount of special damages, it’s time to get to work on the general ones.
Calculations and Considerations
Despite the subjectivity and variability of general damages, figuring these out still comes down to math. In many cases, the multiplier method is used. This means taking the total of special damages and multiplying that number by another number, depending on various factors. For example, you would consider:
- The severity of your physical injuries
- The extent of medical care and procedures required
- Long-lasting (or permanent) physical limitations
- The necessity of ongoing treatment (possibly indefinite)
- Impact on your daily life
The greater the degree of these factors, the higher the multiplier you and your attorney will propose to the insurance company. A second, less-often used method is per diem, which is essentially a daily rate—a dollar amount for each day you have suffered negative effects. This method is often not feasible in cases of long-term or permanent effects. Both methods also involve reviewing prior settlements/judgments on similar cases and injuries. With years of experience in resolving these cases, your attorney can identify precedents that may be useful in determining damages.
Personal injury settlements are a complex business, and it’s rarely a good idea to try and handle them on your own. Your personal injury attorney has the experience needed to work with insurance companies and secure the best outcome possible for you. If you’re thinking of pursuing a settlement, contact us to begin a partnership today.