“Pain and suffering” is a form of non-economic damages that you might claim in a personal injury lawsuit. Often, pain and suffering damages amount to more than 50% of the total amount of a personal injury claim.
What Are Pain and Suffering Damages in Illinois?
Different states apply different meanings to the term “pain and suffering.” Under Illinois law, “pain and suffering” refers to the physical and emotional distress caused by a physical injury. Pain and suffering is one component of non-economic damages in Illinois. Other components include disfigurement and a decrease in quality of life.
“Physical and emotional distress” might include:
- Fear and shock;
- Chronic pain,
- Insomnia/sleep disorders,
- Migraine headaches;
- Pervasive fear and phobias resulting from the event;
- Nerve damage; and
- Similar ailments.
Never forget that you must, most of the time, demonstrate an underlying physical injury before you can seek damages for pain and suffering.
Calculating the Value of a Pain and Suffering Claim
Most of the time, pain and suffering damages are resolved through negotiations between an injured party (or their lawyer) and an insurance adjuster. Two competing methods of calculation are the per diem method and the multiplier method.
The Per Diem Method
“Per diem” is Latin for “per day.” To apply this formula, calculate the number of days you suffered from beginning to end. If the pain is expected to be permanent, you might calculate your life expectancy.
Once you have a specific number, you can assign a “per day” dollar value to your suffering. How much is a day of your suffering worth? $200? $1,000? A lot depends on the intensity of your suffering and the extent of the disability it caused.
The Multiplier Method
Under the multiplier method, you take economic damages (medical bills, lost earnings, and more) and multiply them by a predetermined multiplier. This multiplier is almost always within the range of 1.5 to 5. If your economic damages total $120,000, for example, and your multiplier is 3, your total pain and suffering damages would be $360,000.
Whatever amount you calculate using the per diem method or the multiplier method should be added to economic damages, remaining non-economic damages, and (if applicable) punitive damages. The sum of these components would equal your total damages.
Factors That Influence the Value of a Pain and Suffering Claim
The following factors, among others, should influence the amount of your pain and suffering claim:
- Contributory fault (when two or more parties share liability);
- Insurance policy limits or the defendant’s ability to pay;
- The seriousness of your injuries;
- Any aggravation of any pre-existing conditions;
- How long your pain and suffering continued; and
- How your pain and suffering affected your daily life.
A court might take other factors into account as well. There is no definitive list.
Time Out: Worker’s Compensation Claims
Keep in mind that you cannot claim pain and suffering damages for a workers’ compensation claim. Indeed, one of the purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Act is to limit employer liability.
Nonetheless, this limitation doesn’t mean you cannot claim pain and suffering damages for a work-related accident. It just means that to claim pain and suffering damages, you need to find a defendant other than your employer and prove that the accident was (mostly) their fault.
You Definitely Need a Lawyer if You Plan on Claiming a Significant Amount of Pain and Suffering Damages
A large claim for non-economic damages will complicate your personal injury case even as it renders it potentially more lucrative. Because of the degree of subjectivity in calculating pain and suffering damages, you will probably need a lawyer to help you persuade an insurance company or a court that you deserve the amount you are claiming.