When you’re hurt in a personal injury accident, your medical bills are only one part of the picture. You have a right to recovery for your economic losses as well as your non-economic losses. Financial losses like medical bills, lost work, and property damages are your economic losses.
But a personal injury accident almost always results in physical suffering and emotional anguish. Your injuries are likely very painful. Also, you may not be able to live the same life that you were living before. Your personal limitations may have changed drastically. When that happens, you deserve compensation for what Florida law calls pain and suffering.
Once you know that you have a right to pain and suffering damages, you may wonder how much compensation you deserve. A multiplier is a mathematical formula that you and your personal injury attorney can use to place a value on your pain and suffering for your injuries. Here’s what you need to know about multipliers in your injury case.
What Does the Law Say About Pain and Suffering?
Perhaps the clearest explanation of Florida’s pain and suffering multiplier is in Florida Standard Jury Instruction 501.2. Jury instructions are directions that the judge gives a jury at the end of a trial to help them decide the case based on Florida law. Jury instruction 501.2 talks about what counts as pain and suffering damages:
“…any resulting pain and suffering disability or physical impairment,
disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience or loss of capacity for the
enjoyment of life in the past or to be experienced in the future.”
The jury instruction goes on to say that there’s no exact standard for measuring pain and suffering. Instead, it’s up to the jury to decide what’s fair and just in light of all the evidence.
Start By Calculating Your Economic Damages
Determining your non-economic damages starts by looking at your economic damages. Total up all of the different ways that you’ve lost financially because of the accident. Once you have this figure, you can evaluate your non-economic damages.
Apply a Multiplier
After you calculate your economic losses, you determine a multiplier for your non-economic damages. You multiply the amount of your economic losses by the multiplier number that you choose. The number that results is the total value of your case. The mathematical formula for determining your total case value is as follows:
Economic Damages X Pain and Suffering Multiplier = Total Value of Case
Evaluating the Severity of Your Pain and Suffering
To figure out your pain and suffering multiplier, you look at a number of factors to determine the severity of your pain and suffering. The goal is to evaluate how much you’ve been through and how much your life has changed by what happened. Here are the factors to consider when you’re deciding on a personal injury multiplier:
Severity of injuries: Injuries that are severe warrant a more substantial payment. For example, a break causes more suffering than a sprain. Loss of a limb causes more suffering than a break.
Permanence: When injuries are permanent, your pain and suffering is greater. For example, if you’re unable to walk for six weeks, you have a significant measure of pain and suffering. If you’re unable to walk forever, your pain and suffering multiplier is higher.
Pain associated with your injuries: All injuries have a certain amount of pain. A muscle strain might be lower on the pain scale than a severe burn. Thinking about your pain levels can help you determine what multiplier to use in your case.
Disruption in your life: If your injuries interfere with your life, you can ask for a higher multiplier. If you can’t run marathons like before, go fishing or even quilt like you used to, you can raise your multiplier because of the disruption in your life.
Limited life expectancy: Your multiplier is higher if your injuries limit your life expectancy.
Stress and worry: Have you endured uncertainty about your injuries? Have you had to worry about just how severe your injuries are as you waited for a final prognosis? Your stress and worry can raise your multiplier.
Whether there’s any question of fault: When there’s no question that the other party is clearly at fault for the accident, the multiplier should be higher.
Repeated medical visits: If your injuries require repeated medical visits to treat, the inconvenience should be factored in.
Prognosis for future problems: If your injuries are likely to cause you repeated problems, you may increase your pain and suffering multiplier.
Disfigurement: Disfiguring injuries like scarring or the loss of a body part increase your multiplier because these types of injuries are visible and permanent.
What Ranges Do Multipliers Typically Fall In?
A low multiplier is 1.5. That represents a small amount of pain and inconvenience in addition to your financial losses. In cases where the disruption in life is severe, the multiplier can be as high as 5.
In the vast majority of cases, the multiplier falls between 1.5 and 2. That’s the standard practice for valuing pain and suffering in most cases. However, a higher multiplier is certainly appropriate in severe cases. Your injury lawyer can help you evaluate what multiplier is most appropriate in your personal injury claim.
Are Florida’s Pain and Suffering Laws Written Down Somewhere?
Florida’s pain and suffering laws come from what’s called common law. Even though Florida’s written laws talk about negligence, no written law explains how multipliers work in a personal injury case.
Instead, the law comes from past practice and how it has always been done. The courts look at general principles of what’s fair and what’s been done in the past to settle on what the law should be.
Are There Caps on Pain and Suffering Damages?
There is no limit to the dollar amount that you can collect in pain and suffering damages. In fact, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that caps are unconstitutional.
The court ruled that equal protection under the law means allowing victims to recover the full amount of their losses even when it’s a significant number because of severe pain and suffering.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, we have decades of experience in the courts. We can put our expertise to work for you to help you arrive at a fair value for pain and suffering that represents the damages that you may deserve under Florida law.