Above, the types of damages that are available in a personal injury claim were discussed. However, understanding how much a claim is worth and how the amount of damages that a victim will be able to recover can be complicated, especially when calculating noneconomic damages.
Calculating Economic Damages
Calculating economic damages is the easiest damage type to put a number on. This is because economic damages are the total value of money lost or money expected to be lost. For example, if a person suffers $100,000 in hospital bills, misses a year of work at a salary of $50,000, and must replace their vehicle, which was totaled in the accident at a price of $15,000, their total economic damages (other economic losses notwithstanding) would be $165,000. Of course, this is a simplified version of calculating economic damages; the losses suffered by a person are often myriad and may be more challenging to add up.
Calculating Noneconomic Damages
It is the noneconomic damages that are most challenging to figure out, because they have no monetary worth. How much is a person’s physical pain worth? Their emotional anguish?
Lawyers usually use one of two formulas for calculating noneconomic damages in a personal injury case: the multiplier or the daily rate.
The first, the multiplier, figures out the amount of noneconomic damages a person is owed by assigning a number (usually 1.5 through five) to a person’s case. The more severe a person’s noneconomic losses, the higher the number. Then, this number – the multiplier – is times by the amount of economic damages.
Consider the following: A person is involved in a car accident, and suffers severe scarring and disfigurement, but retains the use of all limbs and bodily functions. The court assigns a multiple of 3.5 to the person’s case. The individual is awarded an economic damages award of $250,000. To find out the person’s noneconomic award, economic damages award is multiplied by 3.5 (the multiplier) to arrive at a total of $875,000.
The second way to calculate noneconomic damages uses a daily rate, or a per diem method. This method uses a monetary amount, and multiplies it by the number of days that you suffered pain, mental anguish, etc. There are two tricky things about a daily rate: First, knowing what monetary amount to assign to each day, and two, knowing exactly when pain and suffering ceased.
Understanding the exact amount of money that you will be entitled to is impossible before a case begins. However, an attorney will likely offer more insight and explanation.