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How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in Washington?

August 21, 2023

All injuries are painful and traumatic, but when someone else’s negligence, reckless behavior, or intentional actions caused your preventable injury it’s even more distressing. This is especially true when the medical bills begin coming in and your serious injury prevents you from returning to work. A personal injury claim against the person, business entity, or government agency that caused your injury is the Washington Civil Court’s way of offering redress to injury victims who shouldn’t be left holding the bag for injuries caused to them by someone else’s negligence.

While it’s relatively easy to calculate the amount of monetary compensation owed to you for the economic damages related to your injury, such as medical expenses and lost wages, you might be wondering how your Seattle car accident attorney, insurance companies, and Washington courts assign a monetary amount to intangible damages like pain and suffering.

How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in Washington?

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages After an Injury?

We all know injuries are painful and it’s always unpleasant to have to endure medical treatments, surgeries, procedures, and follow-up appointments, but how do non-economic damages like your pain and suffering after an injury translate to monetary compensation? An amount awarded for pain and suffering is part of compensatory damages paid by a liable party to an individual who suffered a painful injury due to negligence or wrongdoing on someone else’s part.

Pain and suffering damages are the most common non-economic damages in personal injury lawsuits including those from the following:

Other non-economic damages sometimes awarded to injury victims include compensation for emotional trauma, disfigurement, loss of limb, loss of consortium, loss of pleasure in life, and PTSD.

Calculating an Amount for Pain and Suffering in Washington

Pain and suffering are subjective and don’t come with an invoice the way medical bills do. In order to assign these intangible damages a monetary amount for compensation, attorneys typically use one of two methods, the multiplier method or the per-diem method.

Multiplier Method:

This method uses the injury victim’s medical expenses as a base for estimating the amount of pain they’ve likely suffered and can be expected to continue to suffer based on a medical provider’s evaluation. The method multiplies the total amount of the victim’s economic damages by an assigned injury level number between 1 and 5, depending on the severity of the injury.

For example, if your economic damages add up to $100,000 and the amount assigned to your pain level is 3, your pain and suffering damages would be $300,000 in addition to the $100,000 in economic damages for a total of $400,000.

Per-Diem Method:

This method takes a specific dollar amount of compensation per day and multiplies it by the number of days you’ve suffered pain and the number of future days a medical expert indicates that you’re likely to continue suffering. For example, if you’re assigned $200 per day for your pain and you’re expected to experience pain for 90 days, you’ll receive $18,000 for pain and suffering added to the total amount of your medical expenses and lost wages.

Though there are no caps on pain and suffering damages in Washington, if the method used to calculate your pain and suffering damages results in an exorbitantly high amount, the insurance company of the liable party is likely to negotiate with your attorney to argue it down to a mutually acceptable number. If the case becomes a lawsuit in court in the event you’re unable to reach a settlement agreement, a judge has the final discretion and could lower an exorbitantly high amount awarded for pain and suffering.

Talk to Your Attorney About an Amount for Pain and Suffering

Your Seattle personal injury attorney can talk to you about your level of pain and consult with your doctor and other medical experts about the number of days you’re likely to continue suffering. Then, they’ll review both calculation methods in order to determine which one works best to calculate your pain and suffering damages.

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