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Pain and Suffering

What is Pain and Suffering? 

In certain personal injury lawsuits, damages for pain and suffering refer to the compensation parties may receive for the physical pain and mental anguish they suffer because of the injury. In some jurisdictions, plaintiffs can receive compensatory damages as a form of compensation. They fall under the category of non-economic damages in comparison with economic damages (or general damages in comparison with special damages). A loss of consortium or loss of enjoyment of life are examples of non-economic damages.


Judges and juries are not required to use a single standard when determining pain and suffering awards. A judge or jury decides the appropriate amount of money for these damages based on the plaintiff's evidence of physical pain and emotional trauma.


The "multiplier method" is often used by parties to estimate pain and suffering losses. Plaintiffs or attorneys use this method to calculate an economic damages award by multiplying the plaintiff's damages by between 1 and 5. In general, the multiplier increases with severity of injuries and suffering.


The money a person receives as a result of a pain and suffering award is not taxable in most states, nor is it taxable on a federal level. A physical injury or illness is required in order for this rule to apply. A plaintiff's award of damages for emotional distress could be taxable.


Pain And Suffering Damages Calculation 

Pain And Suffering Damages Calculation

The amount of pain and suffering awarded in personal injury cases where non-economic losses are compensated does not have a fixed value. It is typical for accident victims and injured persons to prove the physical and psychological pain they have experienced. Based on its judgment, the judge or jury will decide how much pain and suffering damages should be.


Injured persons/injury victims receive pain and suffering damages for their subjective losses, which are often supported by objective evidence. Examples include: medical records/medical bills showing the extent of medical treatment a person received, x-rays, photos of property damage and physical injuries evidencing the severity of the injury, comprehensive doctors’ and therapists’ notes, before and after videos showing the plaintiff’s activity level, social media posts, texts, and emails, testimony of friends, co-workers, and family members, evidence of lost work time, and expert testimony regarding medical suffering, bodily injury and/or brain injury, lost earning capacity, and anything else that could be relevant.

The damages for pain and suffering in many states are capped. In the case of a pain and suffering cap, a plaintiff cannot receive an award above that cap. Here are some examples of pain and suffering settlements.

Emotional Distress

Emotional Distress

Damages for pain and suffering include emotional distress. Following a personal injury or accident, a person may suffer from emotional distress. Stress can manifest itself in many ways, such as fear, anxiety, crying, insomnia, depression, and humiliation. Despite suffering emotional distress without any corresponding physical injury, claimants can still receive compensation for pain and suffering. It is often a good idea to suggest mental health counseling to plaintiffs in these cases.


Counselors' testimony is particularly relevant when there are significant subjective symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that cannot be substantiated with objective tests.

Multiplier Method

Multiplier Method

A multiplier method is one way to calculate pain and suffering claims used by parties (e.g., attorneys, plaintiffs, and insurers/insurers). An individual adds up all of the economic damages involved in a case using this method. Once that figure is multiplied by a certain number (typically 3 or 5).


Depending on how severe an injury is, a multiplier will be applied. In mild injury cases, people might use a multiplier of 1 or 2, but in cases of severe injuries, they might use a multiplier of 4 or 5. If there is a need for lifelong medical care, severe pain, lost wages due to a disability, serious injuries involving broken bones, or reduced quality of life, a higher multiplier is appropriate.

Pain and suffering are often calculated using the multiplier method and the pier diem method. A specific dollar amount is calculated for each day in which a plaintiff experiences pain and suffering because of an accident by lawyers, plaintiffs, and an insurance company. An injured person's daily earnings before the accident are often used to calculate the daily rate.


For example, if a plaintiff earned $300 per day prior to an injury, and experienced pain and suffering for 14 days, the plaintiff may demand $4,200 (or 14 x $300) in pain and suffering damages.



Under both state and federal law, a plaintiff's personal injury settlement is not taxable. It does not matter whether the damages are economic or non-economic in nature. This rule generally applies when a plaintiff suffers some type of physical injury or illness.


The law says that a party's damages award may be taxable if he or she suffers emotional distress (without physical injury).

California Law

California Law 

The above discussion summarizes California's laws regarding pain and suffering damages.

In a personal injury case, a plaintiff can ask for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. In addition to these damages, there may be compensation for suffering and psychological trauma, scarring, shock, emotional distress, grief, loss of a limb or organ (or its use), loss of quality of life from a serious injury, inability to participate in enjoyable activities (such as hobbies or sexual activity), as well as loss of enjoyment.

In California, pain and suffering damages are not assessed according to a fixed standard. Nevertheless, attorneys and plaintiffs often use the multiplier method to estimate damage amounts. A damage cap is not imposed by California law in personal injury cases involving pain and suffering and other economic damages.


However, there are some exceptions. A healthcare provider can be held liable for "non-economic" medical malpractice damages that are up to $250,000. Note, though, that this cap does not apply in cases where a healthcare provider intentionally or recklessly hurts or abuses a patient.


In actions for negligence involving the operation or use of a motor vehicle, California Civil Code 3333.4 restricts the recovery of noneconomic damages with the following exceptions: DUI defendants are not eligible for noneconomic damages; uninsured vehicle owners cannot recover or be indemnified for noneconomic damages except those caused by drunk drivers; uninsured drivers cannot recover or be indemnified for noneconomic damages under any circumstances.

Additionally, under Civil Code 3333.3 people are barred from recovering any damages if they were injured while committing, or fleeing after committing, a California felony. The pain and suffering of the decedent may be recovered by plaintiffs who file wrongful death and/or survival actions in California as of 2022.

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