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How are pain and suffering damages determined?

If you're injured in a car crash and take legal action against the at-fault driver, you may choose to seek compensation for two types of damages. These are special (also known as economic) damages and general (noneconomic) damages.

Economic damages are relatively easy to quantify and prove. They include things like medical costs, lost wages and auto repair or replacement. It's easy enough to get receipts to present in court to prove the economic harm that you've suffered.

Seeking noneconomic damages, however, can be more complicated. The most common noneconomic damage for which compensation is sought is pain and suffering, which can be physical and/or emotional.

When considering how much should be awarded to a plaintiff for pain and suffering, judges and juries consider how severe the person's injuries are and whether the injuries will have a long-term negative impact on a person's life (such as scarring or disability). The likeability and sympathy engendered by the victim may impact how much is awarded in pain and suffering damages as well.

When determining how much to seek in non-economic damages, attorneys will consider whether the state has a limit (cap) on pain and suffering damages. Here in Kentucky, there is no cap set by law.

Some attorneys use something called the multiplier method to determine how much to seek for pain and suffering. Generally, this involves applying a multiplier to the total of economic damages. The idea is that the more serious the crash and resulting economic harm is, the more noneconomic harm the victim has suffered. That's not always the case, of course, but it can be a starting point for calculating what damages should be sought.

If you are considering taking legal action against an at-fault driver, your attorney can provide guidance regarding pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages based on your specific situation.

Source: FindLaw, "Car Accident Pain and Suffering Damages," accessed April 17, 2018

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