“Pain and suffering” is one of those phrases you hear all the time, but people rarely stop to define it. More often than not, it gets repeated in a sinister or dismissive tone. You’ll sometimes hear people talk about pain and suffering as a “bogus claim” from “fakers” who “just want money from a lawsuit.”
That’s certainly what the insurance companies would like the public to believe. Pain and suffering claims cost insurers a lot of money every year, so they’re very eager to avoid them — and some have even engaged in PR campaigns to downplay pain and suffering in the past.
But anyone who belittles pain and suffering probably hasn’t had a significant injury before. The physical experience of pain is no walk in the park. It can make it impossible to do your job or the things you enjoy, and it can weigh heavily on your mind and emotions. Indeed, the emotional toll of an injury can itself cause substantial disruption too.
All of these things make it difficult for you to live your life the way you did prior to the accident. And if you didn’t cause the accident, you deserve to be compensated for that hardship.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
In a nutshell, that’s what pain and suffering is: it’s a claim for compensation that injured people make after an accident that causes them physical discomfort and/or mental anguish.
Generally speaking, pain and suffering is recognized as a legitimate damage under New York personal injury law, and it can represent a major part of an accident victim’s overall financial recovery. But how much can you sue for pain and suffering? And how can anyone put a price tag on emotional injuries? We explore those questions below.
How Much Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering?: How Emotional Damages Get Calculated
The goal of personal injury law is to compensate you as fairly as possible for the losses you’ve endured.
It goes without saying, however, that personal experiences such as pain, anguish, anxiety, and distress do not come with clear price tags. There is no ready-made, objective basis for valuing such damages in financial terms. And yet a court can’t do much for you other than giving you money. Accordingly, pain and suffering gets translated to a dollar value as part of the personal injury process.
Pain and suffering is usually calculated using one of two methods:
- Per Diem — The number of days required for your physical recovery is multiplied by a given dollar amount. This total represents your pain and suffering recovery, which is then added to your economic damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages, property losses, etc.).
- Multiplier Method — The insurance company will take your economic damages and multiply them by a given number. The total represents your pain and suffering recovery, which is then added to your economic damages (which are also sometimes referred to as “compensatory damages”).
With either method, the insurance company will try to use the smallest multipliers it can justify. Your lawyer, however, should advocate for larger multipliers that more fairly reflect the full scope of your injuries. It should also be noted that neither formula is required by law, and other methods for calculating pain and suffering are used in some cases.
Bottom Line: So How Much Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering in New York?
Because every case is different, and because there isn’t a single formula that insurance companies or courts are required to use, there is no way to predict or guarantee a particular outcome for your pain and suffering claim.
As a general rule of thumb, pain and suffering damages must not be excessive, and they must be reasonably related to your economic damages.
You may have heard that pain and suffering damages are “three times the amount of your economic damages.” While that notion might help to give you a ballpark answer to the question of “How much can you sue for pain suffering?” you should know that there is no such hard-and-fast rule.
In fact, pain and suffering damages are sometimes as much as five times the total of economic damages, or even more, depending on the circumstances.
New York is one of the few states that does not place any limit (“ceiling”) on pain and suffering damages. The court has discretion to determine the appropriate amount, within reason. This means that pain and suffering awards can sometimes be much higher in New York than in other states.
However, it is also true that some people receive much less than the “three or five times” rule would imply — perhaps only one to two times their economic damages.
There are also some cases where pain and suffering damages simply aren’t available at all, either because:
- There is no reasonable basis for claiming that you experienced pain and suffering, or
- Legal limitations preclude pain and suffering compensation (as is the case in some Personal Injury Protection claims after a New York auto accident and in some New York worker’s comp claims).
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with Our NYC & White Plains Auto Accident Lawyers Today.
How much can you sue for pain and suffering? To learn more about how much money you might be able to claim, we invite you to schedule a free and confidential consultation with our office.
Lever & Ecker, PLLC is a New York personal injury firm with years of experience in helping injured people and their families claim the financial justice they deserve, including pain and suffering compensation.
Your initial consultation with our NYC & White Plains personal injury lawyers is a confidential, no-pressure opportunity for you to discuss your legal matter and learn more about your options. There is no obligation to hire us or to take legal action of any kind.
However, if you do decide to hire us, we will not charge you a fee for our services unless and until we get you money. If we succeed, our fee will only be a percentage of your recovery.
Time limits do apply to most pain and suffering claims in New York, so please don’t delay. To get started, call 914-288-9191 (in White Plains) or 212-766-5204 (in Manhattan), or simply contact us online.