A car accident’s emotional impact is often just as devastating as physical injuries. You may not know that tort law allows you to recover emotional damages. However, as the injured party filing the claim, you must calculate these losses, assigning an appropriate monetary value to non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. The process can be complex and challenging to prove. Still, with the help of a car accident attorney, you can increase your chances of receiving compensation that more adequately values your losses.
What Is Pain and Suffering in the Context of a Car Accident Case?
Tort law defines pain and suffering as an element of the physical and emotional impact of a severe accident causing injuries. Therefore, it falls under the category of non-economic damages. In a car accident, the levels of pain and suffering can vary drastically, mainly depending on the accident’s severity and injuries and the unique circumstances surrounding the crash. Some examples of pain and suffering include:
- The physical pain caused by the actual injuries
- The physical pain caused by necessary medical care to help recover the injuries
- The impact physical and emotional pain can have on your social life, including loss of the ability to enjoy the things you were once able to do
It is not uncommon for victims of auto accidents to suffer from anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress syndrome. That negative impact can hinder their ability to function as before the accident, and the law recognizes that the party responsible should pay for that serious inconvenience.
Can You Collect Non-Economic Damages in a No-Fault State?
Massachusetts is a no-fault auto insurance state. Therefore, every driver in the state must carry personal injury protection insurance as part of the state’s compulsory insurance. PIP coverage is convenient in accidents that result in only minor injuries and minimal economic losses because it allows you to collect compensation without the burden of proving fault. The state mandates a minimum of $8,000 coverage for necessary medical bills, lost income, and replacement services, such as paid assistance with household chores and childcare. However, there is a downside to the no-fault system.
PIP insurance only covers 75% of lost income if your injuries cause you to miss work. Additionally, it only covers up $8,000 in total damages and does not include non-economic losses. This means you cannot recover compensation for pain and suffering through a PIP policy. Therefore, victims of severe accidents with hefty financial losses and emotional damages cannot recover everything they need through this system. However, the law recognizes that discrepancy and mandates a serious injury threshold that, when met, allows you to step outside your PIP coverage and file an at-fault claim.
The Threshold for Injury In Massachusetts
Your injuries must meet specific requirements to file a fault claim in Massachusetts. You must have incurred a minimum of $2,000 in medical expenses directly related to your injuries, or your injuries must include one of the following:
- Serious or permanent disfigurement
- Broken or fractured bones
- Substantial loss of your hearing or sight senses
Severe injuries often quickly accumulate medical bills. However, as long as the treatment you receive is necessary and directly related to injuries caused by the accident, you have the right to bypass the PIP requirement and file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Then you can hire an attorney to investigate your case and identify the non-economic losses, including pain and suffering, through the at-fault system.
What Are the Common Techniques Used To Quantify Pain and Suffering?
The laws that allow you to seek compensation for your losses presume that severe injuries will be painful. How painful they are can affect the amount of compensation you will receive. For example, broken bones take weeks or even months to heal fully. However, there is a difference in the pain level between one fracture and several fractures suffered simultaneously. Additionally, physical pain is a scale that doctors and other healthcare professionals understand well. If your accident involved severe pain, you must consider the circumstances when valuing your losses. Then you can apply a method accepted by the court to assign a monetary value to the pain and suffering sustained. The most commonly used methods are the per diem approach and the multiplier method.
The Per Diem Approach
The per diem approach is not as commonly used as the multiplier method. The idea is that you will recover a certain amount for each day you deal with the pain and suffering of your injuries. The problem with this method is that it does not allow you to recover damages for ongoing pain and suffering. In addition, determining and proving a fair amount for the daily compensation can be difficult. So instead, most attorneys resort to the multiplier method to ensure an adequate value of your losses.
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method uses a number between 1.5 and 5 to multiply by your medical bills. Factors that can affect the multiplier used can include:
- How evident the other party’s fault is for the accident
- The severity of your injuries
- How must your injuries impact your daily life
- How long medical professionals believe it will take for you to reach a full recovery
Ultimately, more severe injuries requiring significantly longer healing often warrant a higher value in pain and suffering. For example, in practice, if you suffered a broken arm that amounted to $5,000 in medical treatments, you may use a multiplier of 3.5 because the injury is severe, but you will have a full recovery. That means your pain and suffering is valued at $17,500. To prove this loss, you can use medical records, expert testimony from doctors, medical bills, photographs of your injuries, documentation from your employer, and written statements from people who know you well and witnessed your injuries’ impact on your life.
What Are the Benefits of Having Legal Representation?
Hiring a car accident lawyer to help you build your case is a choice, and unfortunately, too many people underestimate the importance of having a legal expert on their side. When you file a fault-based claim, you are responsible for providing evidence to support your claim of the other driver’s negligence and the damages you want to recover. The process can be tedious and overwhelming, especially for someone without experience in personal injury law. If you hire an attorney to build your case, you can use that time to focus on healing your injuries. Your lawyer will take care of the paperwork, investigate the accident, gather the necessary evidence, handle negotiations with the insurance company, and protect your right to compensation.
At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we help auto accident victims hold negligent drivers accountable. We understand what you need to build a solid case that allows you to recover sufficient compensation for your losses. You do not need to go through this process alone. We also know the financial burden victims face after a devastating accident. To ensure you have the legal representation you need without financial stress, we charge no upfront fees. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee is that we only get paid when you receive compensation. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers at (800) 577-5188 today for your free consultation. Our phone line is open at all hours of the day and night. There’s No Obligation, Just Information (R).