Car Accidents

How is pain and suffering calculated in a Washington car accident case?

By August 17, 2021No Comments

Catastrophic injuries can be hard to quantify. If you’re in a car accident and you suffer a spinal injury, for example, the resulting medical complications could impact your life in a million unpredictable ways. It almost seems impossible to assign a dollar amount to it.

However, as personal injury attorneys, it’s our job to do just that. You not only deserve compensation for the medical bills you’ve already incurred, but also for the pain and suffering, and mental anguish that your injury is going to cause.

From our team at the Gilbert Law Firm, here’s the rundown on how to calculate pain and suffering in a Washington car accident case.

What are pain and suffering damages?

If you’re in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you can sue them for damages in civil court.

The main type of damages that you can pursue in a car accident case are “compensatory damages.” Compensatory damages are intended to compensate you for the financial and other losses that you are suffering as a result of the at-fault party’s negligence.

There are two types of compensatory damages:

  • Special damages include the expenses associated with the accident:
    • Medical bills
    • Household expenses
    • Loss of earnings and future earnings
  • General or non-economic damages, sometimes referred to as pain and suffering, include any non-financial consequences of an injury, including the following:
    • Mental anguish
    • Disability or disfigurement
    • Emotional distress
    • Loss of companionship
    • Injury to reputation and humiliation
    • Loss of enjoyment of life

Special damages are usually easy to prove to a court– all you need to do is bring in your medical bills and past paychecks. Non-economic damages, or pain and suffering, is where it gets tricky.

How are pain and suffering damages calculated?

In Washington, there is no exact formula for calculating how much money someone can recover in a lawsuit for pain and suffering. Every case is unique, and the decision is usually up to the jury.

There are a few methods that insurance companies sometimes use to determine how much to award someone for pain and suffering:

  • The person’s medical costs multiplied by some factor determined by the severity of the injury
  • The person’s pre-injury income multiplied by their life expectancy

However, these methods are imperfect and often don’t take into account the unique circumstances of each person’s case.

Your personal injury attorney will work with you to calculate an estimate taking all of these factors into account, and present that number to the insurance adjuster or jury.

It’s then up to you and your attorney to present evidence that proves this number is accurate. Typically the best evidence of pain and suffering and other general damages is presented  through lay witness testimony – friends, family, and business associates or other community members.

In the end, the jury will decide the value of your pain and suffering. 

What about the “pure comparative negligence” rule?

One complicating factor in calculating pain and suffering damages in Washington is the “pure comparative negligence” rule. If the court rules that you are partially at fault for your accident, this could affect the amount of compensatory damages that you receive.

Pure comparative negligence means that the court will calculate just how at-fault you are for your accident, and use that to temper your damages award.

For example, let’s say that the jury determines you were 25% responsible for your accident. Based upon this, if a jury awards a verdict of $1,000 in damages, then you will only receive $750.

In order to receive the full compensation that you deserve, you and your attorney will need to demonstrate not only that you deserve a certain amount of compensation, but also that you were not at fault or at very little fault for the accident.

Contact a car accident attorney in Spokane

At Gilbert Law Firm, you can rest assured that you will find honest and genuine representation. Our main goal is to help you recover from your accident without the stress of having to pay for all of your expenses out of your pocket. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.

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