How to Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages

A personal injury claim is made up of two things: economic damages and pain and suffering damages.

Economic damages are computed with a calculator for settlement and trial. In most cases, they consist of past and future medical bills and past and future lost wages. Pain and suffering damages, which has a higher price tag in the vast majority of personal injury cases, cannot be readily complied with a calculator.

How to Compute Pain and Suffering Damages?

The amount to be awarded for pain and suffering damages is determined by the judge or jury in a case. Settlement calculations are based on that prediction.  If a case settles, it means both parties agree that the settlement amount approximates the estimated amount of money a jury would award. 

How does the jury calculate pain and suffering? There is no fixed basis, table, algorithm, mathematical formula or other objective basis that a jury is given to determine a dollar amount. There is no market for voluntary submission to pain and suffering on Amazon or e-Bay that we could use for comparison. Instead, the jury awards the amount of money the jurors believe is appropriate, with little guidance beyond pro forma language that the amount is fair.

How Lawyers and Insurance Companies Reach the Settlement Value

That is the simplest answer. But it does not help us very much. So let's ask the next question. How do personal injury lawyers and insurance companies predict jury awards and calculate settlement amounts?

Our law firm has handled thousands of personal injury cases. So when we have a new case that is ripe for settlement, we think about the pain and suffering our client has endured and try to compare it to what previous clients have experienced. No two cases are alike, but inevitably you are comparing cases and saying things like "This is just like the Smith case, but a little more serious" or "This is just like the Jones case, but in a less favorable jurisdiction." But we are not comparing just one case. The process involves a melding of all of the cases we have handled and many of the settlements and verdicts we have obtained.

The insurance companies do this too but takes it one step further. Most of the major insurance companies use a computer system to value personal injury cases. Colossus is the most famous computer system, but there are a number of programs out there that are meant to help claim professionals value pain and suffering damages, in a consistent and predictable way. These computer systems often try to bake into the calculus just how good your lawyers are; by using their track records in previous settlements and, more importantly, at trial.

Sounds great, right?


The most significant harm in any personal injury case is pain and suffering. The vast majority of any settlement or verdicts should be for the pain the victim had to endure.

But while computers can do many great things, they cannot adequately place a value on human suffering in the same way a human being can. How can a computer look at the character and credibility of the victim, or understand how the injury impacted a person's life? The computer cannot do this. So while the computer makes the claims process much easier and cheaper for the insurance company; it forces our law firm to file a lot more lawsuits than we should. The computer almost invariably errs against the victim, leaving no choice but to file suit to maximize the value of our client's claim.

Another Way to Look at Pain and Suffering

One way our lawyers talk about the monetary value of pain and suffering is to see what the victim endured on a micro level.

We look at three things:

  1. How long did the pain and suffering last?
  2. How severe was the pain and suffering?
  3. How did the pain and suffering alter the victim's life?

From these three questions and answers, our lawyers can tell the insurance adjuster or the jury that so much money should awarded for the allotted amount of time for pain and suffering. Let's look at a sample:

  • Experiencing the horror of the car accident: $10,000.
  • The immediate pain after the crash: $2,000
  • The ten weeks after the crash of pain and therapy: $20,000 ($2,000 a week)
  • The surgery: $20,000
  • Four weeks of recovery from surgery: $4,000 a week
  • Pain for the next 45 years of estimate life: $1,576,800* ($4 an hour for the rest of her life)

* Note: This exceeds Maryland's cap on pain and suffering damages which is now $815,000. But our thinking has been to ask the jury what is honestly fair and let the cap sort itself out later.

Is this a fair damage calculation? Again, it depends on the case. But this gives a formula that is hard to argue with, right? Assuming this was a serious crash, who would sell buy on e-Bay the following scenario: getting into a horrific head-on crash that, could potentially take your life and cause you unbelievable pain for a mere $20,000? No one would take that deal.

Getting a Maryland Lawyer to Fight for You

There is a great temptation to handle your own personal injury claim. In some smaller cases, this is not always a terrible idea. In serious injury cases, this is a foolish mistake that will cost you.

Call a lawyer and assess your options. You do not need to hire someone today. But call a lawyer with a track record of success in these cases to get the lay of the land. If you want to get a free, no obligation consultation with our lawyers at Miller & Zois, call 800-553-8082. You will also get a quick response if you reach out to us on-line with a question or to evaluate your claim.

More Information
  • The best way to value a case is to look at the type of injury.
  • The second biggest variable is the venue. We help you understand the jury award climate in every jurisdiction in Maryland. You can also look at verdict and settlement statistics in other states here.
  • How do lawyers, adjusters, and juries value personal injury claims?

Contact Us For a Free Consultation

If you are hurt in a serious accident or are the victim of medical malpractice, contact our team of lawyers to discuss your case.
Call us now for help at (800) 553-8082

You can also get a FREE no obligation on-line consultation.

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