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How does the ‘pain and suffering multiplier’ work?

How does the ‘pain and suffering multiplier’ work?
Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

You’re driving home from work, minding your own affairs, and you get into a car accident. After weeks of physical recovery, you still are disfigured and suffer from chronic pain. How is it possible to put a dollar amount for compensation for such pain and suffering?

Insurance companies use a “pain and suffering multiplier” to help them determine proper compensation.

How the multiplier works

Pain and suffering is an individual experience. Every person’s tolerance is unique. And yet, two people who suffer the same injuries shouldn’t be compensated differently. How can insurance companies apply a one-size-fits-all solution on what is by definition an individual experience?

The answer is – they can’t. But in lieu of a better system, insurance companies use a multiplier to determine a dollar amount for pain and suffering.

The first number is relatively easy to determine. Medical expenses include doctor and hospital expenses as well as therapy, ambulance fees, consultations, disability, in-home services and medical aids. You can also add in lost wages due to lost earning capacity, time spent in the hospital or in physical therapy, and mobility problems. This gives you a total for medical expenses and out-of-pocket expenses.

Next, you factor in non-economic damages. These are more difficult to quantify. The best way to discuss pain and suffering is to look at the damages you have suffered and rate them on a scale of 1 (least severe) to 5 (most severe).

What are non-economic damages?

In South Carolina, these non-economic damages can include:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Physical impairment
  • Disfigurement
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of society and companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • Fear of loss, injury or illness

When you find an average between the categories, you have your multiplier. Multiply your economic damages by the multiplier from your non-economic damages and you have an estimate of what you might be awarded for pain and suffering.

This calculation is highly subjective and requires expertise not only to determine the final amount but to argue in your favor with insurance companies and the judicial system.

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