If you have been injured in any type of personal injury accident, you are likely wondering how much money you can recover. I constantly remind my clients that the total amount of money paid on a case is not as important as the net amount to them. Some people get caught up in a habit of only looking at the total settlement number without taking into consideration the various expenses (medical bills, fees and costs) that have to be taken out of the settlement. Therefore, I try to focus my clients on how much I can put in their pocket. The best way to accomplish a large amount of money to them is to have a strong claim for pain and suffering.
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in local personal injury accident claims. These claims vary from car accidents and motorcycle accidents to slip and falls. Our practice is unique in the area in that we do not have a high volume of clients so that we are able to focus on each case. Many of our cases involve serious injury such as brain injuries, amputations, disfigurement, or sadly, death. As a result of this experience in handling a select number of claims, we are able to get to know our clients and how each accident has affected their lives.
How Do We Present a Claim for Pain and Suffering?
Because pain and suffering is subjective, every claim needs to be presented in a manner to convince the insurance company to pay. This is accomplished by laying the foundation of the claim through proper medical documentation. We ensure that all of the medical records and notes from your doctors are submitted with our claim. Within those records are normally reports of the pain that you are experiencing as well as anecdotes about how it has affected you. But, as personal injury attorneys, we realize that medical records only tell half the story. Therefore, prior to sending a demand, we interview each of our clients about how the accident with injury has changed their lives. Maybe there are certain things they can no longer do. Maybe there are things that they can do, but with pain or discomfort. Maybe the accident has taken a toll on their loved ones for caretaking and assistance. All of these details need to be incorporated into the demand to the insurance company to put a personal spin on the case. The best way to get an adjuster to put more money on the case for pain and suffering is to relate to them how much you have been impacted. Now, this information doesn’t need to be a novel, but the information needs to be relayed in some concise form to be incorporated into their calculations.
How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated?
How the insurance companies come up with a number for pain and suffering depends on the insurance company. There are several techniques that I have encountered in my career.
This is a technique where the insurance company will take your out of pocket bills (or some combination of medical bills) and multiply that number between 1.5-5. The most commonly used multiplier is 3. So, if you owed 5k in bills at the end of your case, the insurance company multiplies that times 3 and 15k is your settlement. Again, it depends on the insurance company as to whether the 15k is added to the 5k for a total of 20k or not. But, this multiplier technique is very frequently used by insurance companies in some fashion.
Another technique that is used in some of the more serious cases is to put a dollar figure on every day from the date of the accident until they finished treatment. They call this a per diem and it will normally last until they finish treatment or reach maximum medical improvement, whichever is sooner. For example, if the per diem is $100/day and the person treated for 180 days, then the per diem method for pain and suffering is $18,000. While this method seems easy to calculate, I do not believe many insurance companies still use this method often.
Another technique used by insurance companies is to simply use their computer programs to calculate the amount. The program requires the insurance adjuster to enter all of the data on the case and it will spit out a number. How the exact calculation is performed is according to the insurance company’s own set formula which is not available to personal injury attorneys. But, this method is becoming increasingly more common. It is because of these computer programs that offers are being made down to the penny. For example, I will get an offer of $10,347.11 on a case and wonder how the heck did they come up with that? It is simply because that is what the computer is telling the insurance adjuster to offer.
The last and most old fashioned technique is simply to estimate the pain and suffering based on experience and merit. This technique is clearly subjective so the better the demand is written, the better the chance at more money. Now, this estimation can be incorporated into any of the above techniques as well. For example, if the computer program kicks out a number that is clearly too small, an adjuster can supplement it with permission from a supervisor. Unfortunately, this estimation technique is being eliminated from insurance claims in an effort to remove the human element.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering in a personal injury case is found in Florida Statute § 627.737. It is considered to be non-economic damages. But, the statute does not permit pain and suffering in every case simply because you were injured. In order to recover, you must show:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Fortunately for the claim, but perhaps not so fortunate for the claimant, most personal injury accidents result in some form of permanent injury. For example, a disc bulge or disc herniation is a permanent injury that qualifies for pain and suffering. Likewise, scarring is present in virtually every claim involving a cut, road rash, or surgical incision. Therefore, an experienced personal injury attorney will know what to look for in order to present the most valuable claim.
Contact a Local Personal Injury Attorney
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we have a proven track record of success. From the most minor accident to the most serious injury, we have the experience and resources to help. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County or the greater Tampa Bay area, please contact us for a free consultation. Our goal in every case is to make sure that you get better and recover as much money as possible.