For a pain and suffering auto accident claim, how is a multiplier determined?

Question

For a pain and suffering auto accident claim, how is a multiplier determined?

Answer

It sounds like you know a little bit about the car accident settlement valuation process, at least enough to grasp the concept of a “multiplier” when figuring out how to calculate pain and suffering damages.

For those not so familiar, there are typically two categories of compensation (damages) you can receive after you’ve been injured in a car accident: “special” and “general” damages.

Special damages are losses to which a dollar figure can be fairly easily attached: your vehicle damage, your medical treatment, and lost income from time missed at work.

General damages include “pain and suffering,” which encompasses a lot of the negative ancillary effects of the accident and your injuries -- everything from physical discomfort to stress and emotional distress and anxiety. It’s not so easy to put a price on pain and suffering, so a lot of car insurance companies use a formula that involves a “multiplier” -- a number that is usually between one-and-a-half on the low end, and four (or sometimes five) on the high end. This number is multiplied by the total amount of your special damages (discussed above), and the new number represents your general damages. Add the general and specials together, and you get a ballpark idea of the value of your car accident claim.

So, back to your question: How is the multiplier determined? It’s based on a number of different factors, such as the seriousness of your injuries, the length of your recovery time, whether there will be any permanent health problems associated with the accident, and whether or not any aggravating circumstances exist (the at-fault driver was drunk, for example).

For example, a fender-bender involving a quick trip to the doctor might merit a multiplier that is close to the one-and-half minimum. Let’s say you’ve got $200 in medical bills and another $800 in vehicle damages, for a special damages total of $1,000. Using the 1.5 multiplier gives you general damages of $1,500 (remember, pain and suffering damages are included here). So the total approximate value of your claim (adding special and general damages together) would be $2,500.

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