How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in a Wisconsin Personal Injury Case?

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

It may seem like an unusual concept to “calculate” pain and suffering in a personal injury case. While it may seem “cold” or “insensitive”, the purpose of this calculation is actually to your benefit. How so? While many think of calculation and think of algebra or statistics, this is not at all similar. Really, many would argue that pain and suffering are not tangible or able to be explained quantitatively. In fact, they are correct to an extent! It is a very personal, gray, and even qualitative observation of facts that lead to your own experience of how to determine pain and suffering. 

Similar to how a therapist may note certain behaviors and needs to come up with a diagnosis, your attorney will make notes of your experience resulting from an injury to determine your pain and suffering and quantify it in a way that makes sense to our legal system. It’s extremely important that this process is done meticulously, so that a victim is given all the help and compensation that they need. 

What is Pain and Suffering? Definition Explained

According to Wisconsin Law, pain and suffering encompass the physical pain and emotional distress caused by an injury. Imagine you’ve sprained your ankle. The throbbing pain is the physical aspect, but the frustration and anxiety of being unable to participate in your favorite activities contribute to the emotional side. Do you see how this would work? 

Let’s take a more serious injury as an example. Let’s say you are trying to calculate pain and suffering in a car accident that leaves you paralyzed. Yes, the physical pain of other injuries may have been immense with such a crash. Maybe you also have a concussion or broken bones. How long will you experience the results of someone else’s negligence? Well, for the rest of your life. In that case, as you can imagine, you would deserve substantial compensation! Just like the longer you go to college, the smarter you get, the more pain and suffering, the more compensation. 

In legal terms, pain and suffering include present and future:

  • Physical discomfort and pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Anxiety and depression

These components paint a comprehensive picture of the true impact an injury has on your life.

Calculating Pain and Suffering

You may ask how to calculate pain and suffering in a car accident and expect a simple answer. Calculating pain and suffering isn’t as straightforward as tallying up medical bills. It’s actually quite difficult! It can be compared to a lifetime, really. You don’t know the end until you understand the factors leading  up to it! 

Courts actually seem to give little information on “calculation” since these are so personal to each person. Honestly, there’s no definitive price tag for your mental anguish or the disruption to your daily life. Insurance companies often use the multiplier method. This method multiplies your actual damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) by a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of your injury. For instance, if your actual damages are $10,000 and the multiplier is 3, your pain and suffering would be valued at $30,000.

Sometimes, a daily rate is assigned to your pain and suffering, which is then multiplied by the number of days you are affected by your injury. If your daily rate is $200 and you suffer for 100 days, your pain and suffering claim would be $20,000. This is called the Per Diem method. Each case is extremely unique, and your personal injury attorney will be able to advise you on the proper dollar amount of pain and suffering! Personal injury calculators will not be able to accurately predict like an attorney can. That’s almost like asking a robot to fly a plane; they can give you instructions, but they won’t be able to tailor it to your experience and needs. 

Examples of Pain and Suffering

To better understand how pain and suffering might be assessed, let’s look at some examples:

  • Physical Injuries: Severe burns, broken bones, or chronic pain conditions that cause ongoing discomfort and require prolonged treatment.
  • Emotional Distress: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event, anxiety, or depression stemming from your injuries.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: No longer being able to partake in activities you once loved, such as playing sports, due to your injury.

These examples illustrate the broad range of factors that can influence your pain and suffering claim.

How Personal Injury Attorneys Calculate Pain and Suffering Claims

Experienced personal injury attorneys use a blend of methods to calculate pain and suffering claims. An attorney can determine your pain and suffering by really listening to their client and looking at the facts. Just like a therapist! The more they know about their client and their life, the more they can determine the right amount of compensation. Part of the personal injury law process is collecting medical records for detailed records of your injuries and treatments. Expert testimony, or insights from medical professionals or other experts about your condition and prognosis, are also used by attorneys to assist with proving your pain and suffering to a jury or to determine pain and suffering. 

Additionally, in personal injury law, previous case outcomes play a large part in determining future case outcomes. Have you ever heard of “setting a precedent?” Case precedent and case law is often used by judges to make the final say in the amount of money awarded to the victim. By combining these elements, attorneys can build a strong case to ensure you receive fair compensation for your pain and suffering.

Wisconsin Caps on Pain and Suffering

In Wisconsin, there are specific caps on pain and suffering damages, particularly in medical malpractice cases. The cap for non-economic damages in these cases is $750,000. However, for other types of personal injury cases, there is no statutory cap, allowing for potentially higher awards depending on the circumstances of your case.

They also can cap it depending on the person the claim is against. For instance, claims against the state are capped at $250,000, and claims against local municipalities are capped at $50,000. Another thing that may be a factor in the amount you collect for your settlement or verdict is the amount of comparative negligence. This law explains that if you are 20% at fault for the accident, you will receive 80% of the total damages awarded to you. 

Contact an Experienced Green Bay Personal Injury Attorney Today

Understanding how pain and suffering are calculated in a Wisconsin personal injury case involves a mix of methods, examples, and legal expertise. With the right guidance, you can navigate this challenging terrain and secure the compensation that acknowledges the true impact of your injury.
Navigating the complexities of a personal injury claim can feel overwhelming. Our team of dedicated attorneys in Green Bay is here to guide you through every step of the process. You may have a limited time. We understand the intricacies of calculating pain and suffering and are committed to fighting for the compensation you deserve.