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How Pain, Suffering, And Emotional Trauma Fit Into Injury Cases

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When a personal injury attorney puts together a claim or suit, they have to demonstrate that their client, the victim of an incident, suffered damages. These are losses that carry monetary values. One class of damages is considered economic because the defendant is expected to pay one-for-one compensation for something like the cost of setting a broken bone. Usually, a lawyer simply presents the medical bills to the defense to prove these damages.

The other class of damages is considered non-economic because assigning specific monetary values to them is impossible. Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, and emotional trauma. You'd be right to wonder how monetary value is placed on these damages, so read on to explore how they work.

Two Methods

Most personal injury attorney services providers and insurance companies use one of two methods. One is known as per diem, from the Latin meaning "per day." The other is known as the multiplier method. If you end up pursuing a lawsuit, there's a good chance the court will prefer to use a multiplier, although that's not codified in many states.

It's also worth noting that not all states allow recovery of damages for emotional trauma. Likewise, some states have caps on non-economic damages. However, nearly every state has exceptions for cases involving catastrophic injuries like lost limbs, damaged nerves, spinal damage, or facial disfigurement.

Per Diem

When calculating damages for pain, suffering, and emotional trauma, the idea is to keep a record of how miserable each day was. Similarly, it is assumed that the moment of the incident was painful and traumatic, leading to significant suffering.

Typically, a personal injury attorney will ask their client to maintain a daily journal. Each day, they will write down a simple explanation of how bad they felt and how long their suffering lasted. They'll also rate their suffering on a 10-point scale each day. This will be averaged out to produce a number. It may also be used to calculate compensation for expected future suffering.


Most folks using the multiplier system employ a scale from 1.5 to 5, although extreme cases can be rated higher. The multiplier is based on the severity of the injuries, not necessarily the amount of suffering involved. Also, other factors, such as how long the claimant's recovery is taking and the total fault of the defendant, are taken into account. 

The multiplier is applied to known economic damages. For example, someone who incurred $100,000 of damages dealing with a complex wrist fracture with a 2x multiplier would receive a total of $200,000 plus the economic damages.

To learn more, contact a personal injury attorney.