How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in a North Carolina Car Accident Case?

October 1, 2020 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in a North Carolina Car Accident Case?

How to Calculate Pain and Suffering Compensation in a Car Accident Claim

In a North Carolina car accident claim, "pain and suffering" damages are calculated based on evidence related to physical or emotional trauma.

Calculating car accident damages like medical expenses and lost wages is fairly straightforward in practice. However, other losses are harder to quantify – such as the amount of “pain and suffering” a person may have sustained during and after a crash.

North Carolina law provides that there is no fixed formula for estimating a fair and reasonable amount for “pain and suffering” damages.

Rather, a judge and a jury should use their common sense to evaluate the effect a collision has had on an individual person.

Formulas for Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages

There are two broad categories of "damages," or compensation, available in a car accident or personal injury case — economic damages and "non-economic" damages, including pain and suffering. We'll break down the two categories before diving into how pain and suffering can be calculated in North Carolina car accident cases.

Economic Damages

Economic damages or “compensable damages” refer to losses that can be quantified with a number.  Some lawyers refer to these as “boardable” numbers because they can be written on a marker board for a jury. So if you have $10,000 in medical bills, and you lost $2,000 in wages for the time you were out of work, your Economic Damages would be $12,000.

Pain and Suffering

But economic damages don’t tell the whole story of how a collision affected your life.  Many of the effects of an accident can’t be boiled down to a medical bill or listed on an out-of-work note. For most people, the major effects of an accident are the pain and suffering they experience following the wreck.

“Pain and suffering” is a blanket term for physical or emotional trauma caused by a car accident, including:

  • Physical discomfort
  • Nerve damage
  • Headaches
  • Paralysis or loss of range of motion
  • Mental anguish
  • Distress
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Anger
  • Humiliation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • PTSD

In other words, any physical, psychological, or emotional impacts that diminish the quality of life can potentially be compensated in a car accident lawsuit in NC. Applying a monetary figure to this type of damage can be challenging, which is why car accident victims are urged to enlist the help of a knowledgeable attorney to calculate a damages amount that truly and fairly reflects the pain and suffering you have experienced.

North Carolina juries are instructed to rely upon the following guidance in calculating damages for pain and suffering in car accident and other personal injury cases:

  • “Damages for personal injury also include fair compensation for the actual Past Present and Future physical pain and mental suffering experienced by the plaintiff as a proximate result of the negligence of the defendant. There is no fixed formula for placing a value on physical pain and mental suffering. You will determine what is fair compensation by applying logic and common sense to the evidence.”
  • The “per diem” model, in which damages are calculated on a per-day basis, is also used in NC, but for permanent injuries.

Calculating Pain and Suffering with “Multipliers”

Some websites advocate the use of “multipliers.” For example, they may say that if you have $10,000 in medical bills after a car accident, you should multiply that number by 2 and calculate that you also had $10,000 in pain and suffering. In our experience, multipliers are rarely used by adjusters, judges, or juries in North Carolina. 

Instead, pain and suffering is individual to a person, and really has little relationship to how much a doctor billed you for your doctor visits. A good lawyer will go through your medical records and document how your injuries affected your activities of daily living.   If you were unable to exercise, garden, go fishing, play with your kids, or even take out your trash, then those are all examples of how an accident affected your life, and demonstrate how an accident affected you. That is part of your pain and suffering.

personal injury lawyer can have considerable sway in arguing how much your pain and suffering is truly worth. For a FREE, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer, please call 1-800-525-7111 or complete the fast and easy form below.

There are no upfront costs, and you won’t pay any attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive compensation.

Are There Limits on Pain and Suffering Compensation in North Carolina?

The answer is no. North Carolina does not place a limit on pain and suffering damages, except for cases of medical malpractice. A 2011 law put a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages when suing a doctor, hospital, or medical center.

In medical malpractice cases, exceptions can be granted if the court finds the defendant was “reckless,” “fraudulent,” “grossly negligent,” “intentional,” or “malicious” in causing the plaintiff’s injuries or death.

Your Lawyer Can Help Maximize Compensation for Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is often what bumps a five or six-figure award up to a seven-figure award (see disclaimer below and keep in mind that we can’t guarantee a specific result and the outcome of your case will be based on factors that are unique to your situation). When calculating pain and suffering damages in a car accident claim in NC, the court also considers “loss of enjoyment in life” factors, such as:

  • The severity of injuries – Treatment costs (and the amount of physical pain suffered) tend to be greater if you’ve experienced loss of limb or loss of organ function, for example, as opposed to cuts, bruises, and scrapes.
  • Impact on daily life – Injuries that affect the ability to care for a child, work, and participate in meaningful daily activities are generally worth more. Limitations to movement or mobility are considered most severe.
  • Necessary treatments – You can expect a higher settlement amount if your injury requires long-term physical therapy or multiple surgeries. The cost of care is a considerable factor.

A car accident attorney can help you collect evidence to substantiate your past and future losses. If you keep a journal in which you record pain symptoms, feelings, emotions, medication dosages you’re taking, and doctor’s appointments, it can be admissible in court.

Personal details can be considerable factors when it comes to assessing compensation, as well. For instance, the inability to participate in sexual relations with a partner (loss of consortium) may be a covered damage.

Get the Full and Fair Compensation You Deserve

$600+ million recovered since 2000 alone.

We believe Justice Counts.

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, call 1-800-525-7111 for a free consultation with a North Carolina car accident lawyer at Riddle & Brantley.

Our experienced car accident lawyers have a proven track record of multi-million-dollar settlements and jury awards (see disclaimer below). You have nothing to lose by contacting us today, as you never owe us a legal fee unless we recover compensation on your behalf.

“It was nice to see Riddle & Brantley put me and my needs first.”

R. C., Riddle & Brantley client

Don’t wait — the longer you wait to contact us, the harder it may be to win your case and recover the compensation you need and deserve.

Call 1-800-525-7111 today and let an experienced car accident lawyer review your claim for free. You won’t pay any upfront costs or attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive compensation.

*** Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.