Injured victims of motorcycle accidents can often seek money damages from the party at fault. Compensation for pain and suffering forms an essential component of those damages. But unlike adding up expenses and financial losses, calculating pain and suffering requires lawyers and insurance companies to translate physical and emotional trauma into dollars and cents, which is no easy task.
Here is an explanation of how pain and suffering is calculated in a motorcycle accident case and why having an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer on your side helps to ensure that the calculation entitles you to the most money possible.
Pain and Suffering Reflects Non-Economic Damages
A motorcycle wreck typically inflicts two kinds of damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages consist of the negative financial impacts of a crash, like medical expenses, property repair, and replacement costs, and lost income. They’re usually easy to calculate because victims tend to have documentation of what they spent or did not earn due to the wreck and their injuries.
But economic damages only capture part of the harm a motorcycle accident victim suffers. A crash can also inflict a wide range of trauma that does not have a price tag attached, like physical discomfort, emotional anguish, inconvenience, and diminished quality of life. In a motorcycle accident case, non-economic damages aim to compensate for this “pain and suffering.”
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The Challenge of Calculating Pain and Suffering
Calculating pain and suffering damages in a motorcycle accident case isn’t easy. Unlike economic damages, pain and suffering does not generate evidence that attorneys and insurers can quickly add up with a calculator. Instead, they must find a way to approximate a victim’s hurt and distress, using dollars and cents as an imperfect substitute.
It Starts with an Understanding of a Victim’s Trauma
The starting point for any calculation of pain and suffering is the motorcycle accident victim’s trauma. No accurate assessment of pain and suffering damages can happen until lawyers and insurance adjusters understand what the victim has endured. That assessment must take into account not just physical pain but also emotional, social, relationship, and overall life trauma.
Skilled attorneys for motorcycle crash victims understand that the only way to gain that understanding is to focus on the victim’s personal story. They often work closely with the victim and the victim’s family to appreciate the multitude of ways a motorcycle wreck impacted the victim’s life, career, wellbeing, hopes, and plans for the future. They may also employ experts to help them evaluate the scope and prognosis of the victim’s injuries and the challenges the victim will face.
Techniques for Translating Pain and Suffering Into Dollars-and-Cents
Upon gaining that appreciation for the full scope of a motorcycle crash victim’s pain and suffering, the next step is to develop a figure that roughly compensates for that trauma. Lawyers and insurance companies have developed various techniques to accomplish this calculation.
To come up with an amount for pain and suffering damages, lawyers and insurers may multiply the victim’s economic damages by a number, known as a multiplier. A multiplier is, in effect, a number grade given to the severity of the victim’s pain and suffering. Multipliers typically rank a victim’s pain and suffering on a 1 to 5 scale.
The higher the multiplier grade, the worse the pain and suffering and the more money the victim gets. For example, a motorcycle crash victim who sustains a broken arm in a crash may have his economic damages multiplied by 1 to come up with an amount for pain and suffering, reflecting the relatively minor impact of a broken arm on the victim’s life. By contrast, a victim who sustains a spinal cord injury and is paralyzed for life may have her economic damages multiplied by 5 to reflect the profound toll of that kind of injury.
Multipliers are convenient, but their reliance on economic damages as the amount multiplied can lead to uneven and unfair results. Based solely on differences in economic loss amounts (which vary widely based on geography, availability of treatments, and other arbitrary factors), two crash victims who endure the same degree of pain and suffering may receive vastly different pain and suffering damage awards.
Another technique for calculating pain and suffering involves finding close comparisons in past cases to a victim’s pain and suffering in a current case. This method gives motorcycle accident victims identical amounts (adjusted for inflation) for the same degrees of pain and suffering. In theory, using comparators achieves more similar results because it’s not subject to arbitrary variations in individual victims’ economic damages.
Comparators also have drawbacks, however. For one thing, it’s difficult to match two people’s subjective pain, and suffering—manageable pain for one person can overwhelm someone else. For another, the quality of comparison can often depend on who does the comparing and the range of comparison cases available to draw from, making comparators somewhat unreliable in achieving uniform pain and suffering awards.
What a Jury Would Award
A third standard method of calculating pain and suffering comes down to predicting how a jury will react to the harm a motorcycle accident victim suffered. This method reflects the fact that most motorcycle accident claims if they do not settle, have the potential to end up in a trial decided by a jury. In most states, the law leaves the amount of pain and suffering damages to the jury to determine, based on the evidence presented and subject to any maximums imposed by statute.
For experienced motorcycle accident lawyers, predicting a jury award involves an assessment of the strength of a case and their skills as a legal advocate. Having done the hard work over years of understanding and proving pain and suffering in motorcycle crash cases, a seasoned attorney develops a sense of how much money a jury will tend to award for a client’s particular injuries and life struggles. Through skilled negotiation and presentation of evidence, an attorney can often convince an insurance company to accept this estimate’s accuracy and pay the maximum.
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Pacific West Injury Law represents motorcycle accident victims in legal actions seeking compensation for the harm they suffered, including pain and suffering. Contact us for a free consultation to learn how we can help you.
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