How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?

Pain and suffering” damages are a component of non-economic damages. Non-economic damages, in turn, are one component of personal injury claims that typically include economic damages and non-economic damages. Occasionally, personal injury claims include punitive damages.

It might seem difficult to calculate a specific dollar and cent value for something so nebulous as pain and suffering, but courts do it every day. So do opposing parties in settlement negotiations.

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible, psychological losses. In addition to pain and suffering, non-economic damages might compensate you for emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement, to name a few. If it’s easy to count (in terms of a dollar value), it probably does not qualify as non-economic damages.

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

Pain and suffering damages compensate you for, as the name suggests, the pain and suffering that your injuries forced you to endure. 

Imagine, for example, having your face severely cut by windshield glass. This will involve considerable physical suffering as your wounds heal, and it will generate medical expenses. You may also suffer shame, embarrassment, and facial scarring. If you work as a model, you might have to take early retirement. 

Overall, pain and suffering damages can compensate you for physical, mental, and emotional impacts.

Common Conditions That Generate Pain and Suffering Claims

Anything that causes you pain or distress constitutes “pain and suffering.” Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Neck pain (whiplash, for example)
  • Spine injuries 
  • Back injuries
  • Amputation injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Road rash
  • Burns
  • Nerve damage
  • Head injuries
  • Chronic joint pain

These are ten out of hundreds of possible conditions that might cause pain and suffering. You can also collect compensation for the pain and suffering of a deceased victim in a wrongful death lawsuit, as long as death was not instantaneous.

Factors That Matter Regarding the Value of Your Personal Injury Case

Assuming that you win your personal injury claim, the following factors determine how much money you take home:

  • The seriousness of your injuries;
  • The duration of your suffering;
  • Your age and health, especially if your injuries are permanent;
  • The nature of your mental and emotional distress;
  • Impact on your day-to-day quality of life;
  • Expert testimony on how much pain and suffering you are likely to have endured; and
  • Tennessee’s statutory damages caps.

There are many more variables at play, some of which are under your control and some of which are not. The quality of your legal representation is one seldom-mentioned component of compensation that you should pay attention to.

Tennessee Imposes Statutory Limits on Non-Economic Damages

The Tennessee legislature has passed a statute that limits non-economic damages in personal injury cases to $750.000. If your injuries qualify as “catastrophic,” this limit increases to 1 million per person.

Ways of Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages

Most of the time, pain and suffering damages are agreed upon during settlement negotiations. The final amount typically reflects the amount that the parties anticipate that a court would award if the case went to trial. Following are descriptions of a few of the most common ways of calculating pain and suffering damages.

The Per Diem Method

Under the per diem method, you assign a daily value to your suffering–$350 per day, for example. You then multiply that figure by the number of days that have elapsed between the date of your accident and the date that your doctor affirmed that you reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is the point where your doctor expects no further improvement in your condition.

If you haven’t yet reached MMI, you will have to estimate your future pain and suffering, perhaps with the help of an expert witness.

The Multiplier Method

Under the multiplier method, you choose a number, typically between 1.5 and 5, that represents the intensity and duration of your suffering. Multiply this by the total amount of your economic damages (medical expenses, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses such as child care, and more) to determine your total pain and suffering compensation.

Insurance Company Software Algorithms

Insurance companies use their own algorithms to determine the amount of pain and suffering damages they will offer, given certain facts about your claim (Colossus is an example). These algorithms are designed to advance the interests of the insurance companies, not you. As such, they often generate “lowball” offers.


Like it or not, negotiation skills generally make a huge difference in the amount of pain and suffering damages you will eventually receive. The reason why it makes such a big difference is that there is no objective way to measure a concept so ambiguous as pain and suffering.

This reality puts you in a difficult position if you choose not to hire an attorney. Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators, and you are likely to get “taken to the cleaners” in settlement negotiations unless you, too, are a professional negotiator with an intimate understanding of Tennessee personal injury law. Fortunately, experienced personal injury lawyers are also professional negotiators. 

Leaving It to a Jury

Most personal injury claims never make it to trial, but a few of them do. Although both you and the defendant have the right to demand a jury trial, you can both agree to waive a jury trial and let the judge decide your case. Despite this, juries decide most personal injury trials.

You Need a Nashville Personal Injury Lawyer To Help You Calculate and Prove Your Compensation for Pain and Suffering

The odds are good that your personal injury claim will begin and end at the settlement table rather than in court. Either way, it can be difficult to establish your entitlement to a large amount of compensation for pain and suffering. Your best chance is to hire a seasoned Nashville personal injury lawyer.