How Are Pain and Suffering Settlements Calculated in Pennsylvania?
If you’ve been seriously hurt, no one in the world can truly understand what you are going through. Everyone’s life, relationships, work-home balance, and family are unique, which means that when your world is turned upside down by an accident or a maliciously intended act, you will be affected differently than anyone else.
So, how is it that a pain and suffering settlement gets decided on? Well, for starters, there isn’t an official calculator. This means, though, that it’s important you get a good lawyer who can help you plead your case so that your words and emotions come across seriously, professionally, and with the level of negative impact that the event truly had on your life.
There are two types of pain and suffering cases that can be settled out of court. The first is physical pain and suffering, which applies to things such as broken bones, concussions, or now chronic aches and pains associated with other types of accidents. The second is mental pain and suffering, which encompasses all the negative emotions or psychological (and often physiological) difficulties that are present after an accident or a harmful event. Mental pain and suffering aren’t always easy to put a finger on, but they show plenty of symptoms. Some of these are:
- Emotional distress
- Humiliation or embarrassment
- Lowered life enjoyment
- Mental anguish
- Mood swings
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
When mental or emotional struggles are a result of a physical injury, then they can factor into a pain and suffering settlement because someone caused the injury, which led to further complications.
Navigating all of this can seem overwhelming, especially on top of being hurt in the first place. It’s important that you do your own research (beginning here), and then reach out to get a claim evaluation before deciding how to move forward with your case.
What Insurance Companies Use to Determine Settlements in Pennsylvania
Every insurance agency has its own way of calculating damages for pain and suffering cases. There are a few common ones that most companies use, though. These are the multiplier method, the per-day determination, and fault playing a role.
The Multiplier Method
This way of determining a settlement is similar to what is used in a personal injury case, in which there was an actual physical injury that occurred. First, the insurance agent and the plaintiff will work together to compile a list of all the medical bills, treatment, lost wages, travel necessities, etc. that the injured party has incurred. Then, that total will be multiplied by a number from 1.5 to 5, depending on the negative impact that the event has on the plaintiff’s life as a whole.
The Per-Day Determination
This is what it sounds like: how long will it take to fully recover from this event? Let’s say it takes a whole year. The insurance company will determine a daily amount of “suffering” and multiply it by 365 to get a total amount due to the injured party.
Fault at Play
The insurance company is, of course, always interested in who was at fault, why, and by how much. If the plaintiff was doing something irresponsible or negligent, then they don’t want their client to have to pay out for it. Think about the burglars in the classic movie Home Alone. In some instances, the burglars could have sued the McCallisters for sticking nails through their feet or burning their scalps off with blowtorches. But truly, whose fault was the break-in in the first place? If Harry and Marv hadn’t chosen to rob the home, then none of those injuries would have happened.
Looking at fault in a pain and suffering case might seem counter-intuitive. However, there are usually two sides to every story. Your personal injury attorney will ensure that your side of the story is heard while also making you seem credible and honest to the judge so that your case doesn’t get thrown out.
What Judges and Juries Look For When Deciding on a Settlement
Since there isn’t a specific numerical formula that can be used to determine how much pain and suffering one is going through, the judge who is overseeing the case will instruct the jury to decide on an amount while taking into consideration the actual tangible costs and the change and negative impact to the plaintiff’s life. This is often considered “a matter of the heart,” which is truly subjective.
One way they will do this is by thinking about how much money they would want to be offered if they were sitting in the plaintiff’s chair. This might not seem like the fairest way to decide, but if you’ve chosen a high-quality and experienced attorney, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, as they will have pled your case to the highest degree of sympathy without being seedy.
The judge will also take into consideration other factors, though, such as:
- The type and/or nature of the injuries or effects (physical, mental, emotional)
- How long the suffering lasted or is expected to last
- Any pre-existing conditions that could have made the plaintiff susceptible to this pain
- Potential for further injuries or complications in the future
- Evidence for both parties’ claims
Remember, too, that no two cases are the same. It might feel frustrating to think that your case could end up with a much lower amount for a settlement than a similar one that happened in the same place with the same circumstances; however, this is another reason to make sure that you have a high-quality lawyer who will advocate for you with everything in their power.
When The Case Didn’t Go Your Way
Sometimes, things just don’t seem to unfold the way you or your attorney thought they would, though. If you are offered an amount that is offensive to how much this even truly impacted your life, or that you think is grossly unfair, you’ll need to collect a great deal of evidence for when you give an appeal.
If you have been suffering anxiety and depression after the event, are you going to therapy? Could your counselor be a witness to your emotional frustration, even without telling the courts specific details? Do you have documentation of needing to miss work or school, or of your family saying that you haven’t been able to participate in regular life activities as you used to be able to before? If you can gather affidavits, letters, and other forms of documentation, you might have a way to ask for more money.
However, putting all of this together isn’t quite enough. Not only do you have to show that you suffered, but you also have to show that the defendant whom you are bringing the case against was actively responsible for causing this harm, and that they had a duty to protect you from it in the first place.
Limitations and Specifications to Pennsylvania Pain and Suffering Cases
Pennsylvania law puts time-sensitive stipulations on these types of cases. Although you do not have to file a claim right away when something happens to you, state law says that you only have two years to bring a claim to the courts. This two-year statute of limitations applies to personal injury, property damage, medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims.
This might sound like a long time, but once an accident has happened and you’ve recovered enough to realize that someone besides you should be footing the bill, time can slip away fast. Just another reason to make sure you have someone working hard for you who can get things moving quickly.
There are also “damage caps” in Pennsylvania that put a limit on the amount of damages you can seek from a single incident, however, these damage caps only apply to lawsuits filed against the government. You can bring a claim of up to $250,000 against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and up to $500,000 for local government cases. However, claims against local governments that are specifically for “pain and suffering” can only be for cases of death or permanent loss of bodily function, disfigurement, or dismemberment in which medical expenses are over $1,500.
Otherwise, in Pennsylvania, there is no limit to how much you can request for a personal injury settlement. Pennsylvania is a “modified comparative negligence” state, though (along with most states in the country), meaning that if you were more than 50% at fault for the accident, then you are not in a position to claim any damages. For car accidents, Pennsylvania holds a “no-fault” system, meaning that if you have “no-fault insurance,” you are not able to sue other drivers.
A pain and suffering case might just be one of the most subjective legal proceedings out there. All the more reason to hire an experienced, professional lawyer to represent you. Pennsylvania laws also change often, and you shouldn’t have to worry about if you are abreast of the latest rules and regulations.
The team at Mattiacci Law has dealt with cases just like yours for years, and we are confident that we can represent you and your legal needs to be able to get the compensation you deserve. No one else in Pennsylvania will treat you with as much respect, attention, and honest business practices as those at Mattiacci Law.