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What is the pain and suffering multiplier?

It is not uncommon for victims of catastrophic accidents and their family members to experience emotional duress and physical pain following the adverse incident. The law accounts for this special type of damage by allowing courts to compensate individuals for “pain and suffering.”

Pain and suffering is highly subjective and varies from person to person — even between people who live through similar traumas. Given that, how do insurers calculate damages for pain and suffering?

The pain and suffering multiplier

According to FindLaw, many insurers use an equation called “the pain and suffering multiplier” to calculate these types of noneconomic damages. This equation takes the amount of actual, or “economic,” damages and multiplies it by a number of between 1.5 and 5 (the multiplier). Depending on the seriousness of the victim’s injuries, the multiplier may be higher, at between six and seven. The purpose of the multiplier is to indicate the seriousness of the victim’s emotional and physical pain.

To determine the multiplier, the insurer will take several factors into consideration. Those include the following:

  • Seriousness of the injuries
  • The obviousness of the other driver’s fault
  • The length of recovery
  • Undeniable proof of pain and suffering

FindLaw warns that the amount the insurer calculates with the multiplier is just an estimate. There is no guarantee that you will receive this amount.

The multiplier in action 

Though many people criticize the multiplier, it is a fairly straight forward way of calculating pain and suffering damages. To come up with a final amount, the insurer would take the total cost of actual damages, including lost wages, medical expenses, therapy bills and other expenses. It would then multiply that number by the elected multiplier. So, say your actual damages totaled $10,000, and the multiplier the insurer choose was three. Your total estimated damages, including pain and suffering, would be $30,000.