This is the ultimate guide to pain and suffering settlements in 2020. You’re going to see pain and suffering settlement examples for car accidents (and more).
In this comprehensive guide I’ll cover:
- How to get the best settlement
- How to value pain and suffering
- Advanced pain and suffering calculation tips
- Lots more
So if you want to increase your chances of getting a bigger pain and suffering payout, you’ll love this guide.
Let’s get started.
Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQ) that I’ve collected about pain and suffering:
Every settlement, where someone is awarded money, takes several factors into account. This includes the severity of the injury, type of medical treatment received, the length of recovery time, and possible long term effects of the personal injuries. Other factors include the amount of insurance coverage available and the type of case.
That said, from my personal experience, the typical payout for pain and suffering in most claims is under $15,000. This is because most claims involve small injuries.
The severity of the injury is a huge factor that affects the value of pain and suffering damages. If you look at my larger settlements, you will find a couple of common factors.
In most cases, the injured victim will not get around $292,000 for pain and suffering, like my client in the photo below. This is because most cases don’t result in going to the hospital and having emergency surgery.
In most cases, pain and suffering settlement calculators are worthless. This is true whether you are trying to estimate a settlement amount for a car accident or slip and fall case.
Insurance companies do not use those basic pain and suffering calculators. They are not putting their billions of dollars on the line by using a calculator that only asks you to enter a few pieces of information. Insurance companies use over 70 factors to calculate the value of your case.
Here, I explain how to calculate the value of pain and suffering. You’ll see the actual amount that insurance companies paid for pain and suffering damages in different injury claims. In some of the cases below, you’ll see how much people got in their pocket after paying their medical bills and attorney’s fees.
I’ve had hundreds of personal injury settlements that total over $8 million (combined). Therefore, my experience allows me to share several pain and suffering settlement examples with you.
Additionally, you will find out how much money is awarded for pain and suffering for certain injuries.
As you likely know, pain and suffering is the legal term for a type of damages caused by an injury. Pain and suffering is just one type damages for which you can get compensation. If someone else was negligent, you may also be able to get a payout for your medical bills, lost wages and more.
I even created a pain and suffering calculator. But do not calculate your case value with it. This is because so many factors affect a payout. Here is what the bottom part of my pain and suffering calculator looks like:
Yes, your car accident settlement will likely be higher if the car is totaled or the damage is big. I’m talking about for settlement purposes, if you are claiming soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue injuries include whiplash, neck and/or back pain or any pain without a broken bone.
Let me give you an example from a real case. Cesar was driving a minivan in Brickell, Miami-Dade County, Florida. Another driver rear ended Cesar, and this sent his minivan into a wall.
His minivan sustained huge damage. Check out a photo below. If you want to maximize your accident settlement, that’s a great photo! Just looking at that van, you imagine that is possible that the driver experienced some pain and suffering.
GEICO insured the driver who rear ended Cesar (my client). Shortly after the accident, Cesar searched for Miami car accident lawyers.
He was looking for a lawyer who had many big accident settlements. Fortunately, he found me. Cesar got a free consultation with me.
We settled his case for $20,000. If his car was not damaged badly, the settlement would have been much smaller. Further below, a talk more about this case.
When trying to settle a case before a lawsuit, many attorneys send a letter which explains why the other person (or business) is at fault. This letter also outlines your medical treatment.
You don’t need to send a demand letter to get an offer from an insurance company. However, doing so shows them that you organized and intelligent.
You don’t have to ask the insurance company for a certain amount of money for pain and suffering damages. Some experienced attorneys (including myself in some cases) don’t ask for a certain amount. I’ve settled many cases where I did not ask the insurance company for a certain amount of money for pain and suffering.
In certain cases, it may be better not to ask for a certain amount of money for pain and suffering. Here is why:
If you demand a specified amount of money, the defendant can use your demand as a basis to remove the case to federal court. Some defendants, like Walmart and Target, prefer defending personal injury claims in federal court.
They believe that there is a higher chance that the case gets dismissed. This is particularly true for slip and fall cases.
Here is a photo of an accident scene in a case where I sent a demand to settle. I included this photo in my demand. In the end, we settled for $300,000.
No, unless your personal injury case is worth equal to or more than the insurance policy limits.
As an example, I have had insurance companies make an opening offer of $150,000 in different cases. Yet, I’ve ended up settling each for over $200,000.
In one case, an insurance company made me a first offer of $150,000. A short time thereafter, I settled for $260,000. Most personal injury cases involve negotiation. Like it or not, that’s just that way that it is. Insurance companies expect the injured person’s attorney to negotiate.
What about people who try to get a pain and suffering settlement without an attorney?
In this instance, adjusters realize that many people (without an attorney) are bad negotiators. Some people are absolutely terrible at negotiation. And I don’t fault them. They just don’t have 16 years of experience fighting for pain and suffering payouts.
These unsuspecting victims can leave hundreds of thousands (or more) of dollars on the table! I know this because my clients tell me the amount that they want to ask for. In serious injury cases, their initial settlement demand suggestion is often way too low. They simply don’t value their pain and suffering damages properly.
I’ve had clients tell me that they would have accepted $30,000 from the insurance company. Yet, I’ve gotten them a settlement for over $300,000. That’s ten times the amount that they would have happily accepted.
Here is an image showing the first and final offer comparison in my $260,000 Uber accident settlement:
By far, the biggest proof of your pain and suffering is your medical records and bills. Additionally, in cases where you have a serious cut, photos can be great to show your pain and suffering. Videos showing your surgery can also be great if or a doctor put hardware in your body.
If your case reaches the lawsuit phase, then your testimony under oath will be another factor in any ultimate pain and suffering award or offer. The defense attorney will look at your medical records. He or she will ask you questions to see if you are exaggerating your pain and suffering.
At every medical visit, the doctor asks you your pain level. He or she records it into every medical record. Therefore, this record is permanently recorded. Don’t think that you are outsmarting the insurance company when you later tell them that you pain level was a 9 or 10 (out of 10), but you told the doctor it was a 1 or 2.
Here is an image that shows the pain scale:
No. In the 12 months before November 2019, my average personal injury settlement was $18,570. That’s a nice figure. However, it does not tell you how much money was specifically paid for pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering is just one type of damages for which you may be able to get money. (Medical bills and lost wages are additional.)
Here, you’ll get to see examples of settlements that show how much money people got for pain and suffering. I’ll also show you how to calculate pain and suffering damages. And I don’t use a cheap pain and suffering calculator to do this.
In 2017, the average auto liability claim payout for bodily injury was $15,270.
The Insurance Services Office (ISO) created the image below. They are the same office that keeps track of all of your claims. Yes, there is a record of all of your accident settlements (and claims).
The $15,270 average settlement figure (above) includes loss adjustment expenses. An example of an expense is when the insurance company hires an investigator to take photos of the accident scene.
We’re going to dig deep into pain and suffering claims, but feel free to jump to any section that interests you:
- Example where insurance company did not make an offer for pain and suffering because victim did not have a lawyer
What is the average payout for auto accident settlements?
The average payout that the injured person received is likely slightly less than $15,270.
Also, the $15,270 amount does not include Massachusetts and most states with no-fault automobile insurance laws. Here is a map that shows which states have no-fault laws:
And like my $18,750 settlement figure, the $15,270 average settlement amount does not tell you how much was paid for pain and suffering. Don’t expect insurance companies to give you pain and suffering settlement examples. They won’t. They keep this info under lock and key.
The average auto auto liability claim for bodily injury is about four times bigger than the average for property damage liability.
One of the reasons that it is 4 times bigger is because a large amount of most bodily injury claim payouts is for pain and suffering (and medical bills).
By now, you probably know that someone must have been careless (and caused your injury) in order to get a pain and suffering payout. Moreover, you may have seen countless personal injury settlement calculators. Heck, I even created one myself. (I just linked to it.)
What are examples of injuries that get you money for pain and suffering?
Injury victims may be awarded money for pain and suffering if they have one of the following:
- Whiplash or aches
- Broken bones
- Limitations on activities that they can do after an injury
- Many other types of injuries.
In the video below, I talk about how much pain and suffering is worth.
You may be able to get compensation for pain and suffering damages without filing a lawsuit. I’ve settled hundreds of claims where the insurance company paid me money for pain and suffering without suing.
Very few injury cases go to trial. Thus, in total, insurance companies likely pay much more for pain and suffering for claims before trial than as a result of a verdicts.
Does a hospital stay increase a pain and suffering settlement?
If you have to go to the hospital due to an accident, this may increase the value of your pain and suffering. However, insurance companies do not use a pain and suffering multiplier that factors in the hospital.
Not every hospital stay is treated equal. If you are admitted to the hospital, and have surgery, this has the biggest positive effect on your pain and suffering payout.
Let me give you an example. Ryan was driving in Clearwater, Florida. Another driver made a left turn directly into Ryan’s car. They crashed. Here is the diagram from the Florida traffic crash report:
Here is a photo of the accident scene:
Just look at this photo below. It was taken after Ryan had been in the hospital due to the accident.
Ultimately, he had surgery to his broken leg (tibial plateau). You can see that this photo is very powerful.
While in the hospital, he realized that it was not smart to handle his pain and suffering claim without a lawyer. Therefore, he got a free consultation with me to see if I could represent him. After we spoke, he hired me.
The fact that he had stayed for a few days in the hospital, and had surgery, greatly increased his pain and suffering payout. We settled for $300,000.
Here are the two settlement checks:
For several reasons, I did not use my settlement calculator to determine the value of Ryan’s case. First, my pain and suffering calculator does not list his particular injury, which is a fracture below the kneecap. Thus, my calculator would not have known what number to assign for his pain and suffering.
In the future, I may add a value range to my pain and suffering calculator for a broken leg (tibial plateau) fracture and surgery. If I do this, I’ll likely assign assign between $200,000 and $300,000 for pain and suffering for this injury.
Overall Effect of The Injury Determines Settlement Amount
As you can imagine, the effect of your injury on your daily activities will determine the value of your pain and suffering.
For example, let’s say that someone fractures his leg. He or she is confined to a wheelchair for a few weeks. That person’s claim is worth more than if he or she wasn’t limited to using a wheelchair to get around.
As I said earlier, I reached a $300,000 accident settlement where Ryan broke the top of his lower leg bone (tibial plateau). In the photo above, you can see my client.
The pain and suffering damages component of the settlement was about $292,000 (or 97% of the settlement).
Workers’ compensation paid most of the medical bills. We only had to pay workers’ comp back $3,842 from my client’s settlement.
Basically, Travelers Insurance used the following accident settlement formula:
They assigned around $292,000 for his pain and suffering for his broken leg and detached meniscus. Next, they added his out of pocket medical bills. That equals approximately $300,000.
Since Allstate paid $100,000 to settle, Travelers only owed $200,000.
After my attorneys fees, costs, and paying the workers’ compensation lien and medical bills, Ryan got about $187,370 in his pocket.
This chart shows the breakdown:
His pain and suffering claim was worth more because he needed a wheelchair for some time after the crash.
If you use a wheelchair after an accident, have someone take photos of you in the wheelchair. Quickly send those pictures to the insurance adjuster. It helps him or her appreciate the severity of your injury.
As a result, the adjuster may pay you more for your pain and suffering.
In Ryan’s case, the $300,000 settlement amount was 39 times his of pocket medical bills and final workers’ compensation lien after I used his PIP to pay most of the workers’ comp lien.
Basically, the pain and suffering multiplier was around 39.
93% of a $445K Settlement was for Pain and Suffering
A young man was riding a motorcycle in Hialeah, Florida. A tractor trailer was heading in the opposite direction.
The truck driver made a left turn and hit the motorcyclist.
As a result of the impact, the rider was thrown off his motorcycle. The truck driver got a ticket for causing the accident.
He broke his leg and finger. Specifically, he had a tibial plateau fracture. Doctors operated on both his leg and finger. He spent about a week at the hospital. While in the hospital, he called me for a free consultation.
I met him at the hospital and he hired me immediately.
I settled his personal injury case for $445,000. When looking at his final out of pocket hospital and medical bills, 93% of the total settlement was for pain and suffering.
The pain and suffering multiplier was 14.7 times the final out of pocket medical bills.
After my attorney’s fees, costs and paying his medical bills, he received $263,522.
This does not factor in interest on a loan that he took.
Do insurance companies pay more for broken bones than soft tissue injuries?
Yes, in general. Let me give you an example.
In May 2019, a car hit Alice while she was walking in a supermarket parking lot in Miami, Florida. The pedestrian broke her ankle. Specifically, she fractured her distal fibula.
Fortunately, she did not need surgery. She also had bruising to her face.
After the accident, she searched for a Miami car accident attorney. As a pedestrian hit by a car, she wanted compensation. She wanted an attorney with many awesome car accident settlements. I gave her a free consultation. Immediately thereafter, she hired me as her attorney.
Progressive insured the driver of the car that hit Alice. Progressive made a first offer of $50,000. The adjuster then told me that he didn’t have more than $75,000 to offer.
About five months after Alice’s accident, I settled her case with Progressive for $90,000. Check out Progressive’s settlement check:
Take a look at Progressive’s first offer compared to their final offer.
Now, let’s look at how much of the settlement was for pain and suffering vs medical bills.
Here is a chart that shows it:
As you can see, 94% of the settlement was for pain and suffering. Only 6% of the payout was for medical bills.
After my attorney’s fees, costs and paying off her outstanding medical bills, she gets over $54,000 in her pocket.
Take a look:
As you can see from image above, I took my attorney’s fees and costs from the total settlement before paying her medical bills and health insurance liens.
In most cases, you are required to pay back your health insurance company from your injury settlement. The most that you may need to repay them is the amount that they paid for your medical bills.
Do insurance companies multiply your medical bills by a number to calculate your case value?
I do not believe that they do. However, I know two attorneys who use this approach in some cases. (This is not how I calculate settlement value.)
Nevertheless, this calculation is called a pain and suffering multiplier. In Alice’s case, the settlement amount was around 17.5 times Alice’s out of pocket medical bills (and health insurance liens).
Take a look:
In other words, the pain and suffering multiplier was around 17.5.
Pain and Suffering Is 81% of Total Damages in a Lyft Accident Case
A young man was a passenger in a Lyft car in Miami Shores, Florida. Another car hit the car that a Lyft passenger was in.
He did not want handle his pain and suffering claim without a lawyer. So he called my office and hired me.
It gets better:
GEICO issued a $25,000 settlement check within just one month after the accident!
You might be wondering:
Why did GEICO send us a $25,000 check so fast?
They quickly issued a check because the GEICO insurance policy had low limits relative to my client’s injuries. Additionally, the driver (who GEICO insured) receiving a ticket for driving too fast for the conditions.
The At Fault Driver Was Underinsured (with GEICO)
GEICO’s $25K check wasn’t enough to compensate my client for his injuries.
Thus, we also made a underinsured motorist insurance claim with Lyft. Fortunately, Lyft had underinsured (UIM) motorist insurance that covered its passengers.
Here is Lyft’s old certificate of liability insurance, which shows the $1 million UIM insurance limit at the time.
At the time of this accident, Zurich American Insurance Company insured Lyft. York Risk Services Group handled the claim for Zurich. Zurich paid us $45,000 to settle the passenger’s UIM insurance claim.
I settled the entire case for $70,000. PIP insurance paid a lot of my client’s medical bills. By the time when I made a settlement demand, he owed about $13,044 to his doctors. This means that about $56,956 of the settlement was for pain and suffering.
The pain and suffering multiplier was about 5.
In his 5 star review, here is what my client said about me as his Lyft accident attorney.
Justin is fast and effective by being ALL THE TIME one step ahead of potential issues with your case. I was impressed with his accurate and rapid responsiveness even for a single phone call or email.. He’s an EXTRAORDINARY professional and human being…two qualities hard to find in a lawyer. I’m positive about referring Justin to everyone.My actual client (Lyft passenger) review on Google Maps
Do insurance companies pay more for pain and suffering if an ambulance transports you to the hospital?
All things equal, yes. For example, just take a look at Uber’s accident details form. Third parties (or their attorney) can can complete this form to notify Uber of an accident.
The top of the form looks like this:
Further below, the form asks:
Was anyone transported by ambulance?
Check it out:
Uber is asking this question so that it can assign the case to the proper insurance adjuster. Higher level adjusters are assigned to claims that have a bigger pain and suffering value. Insurance companies (and businesses) also need to set aside the proper settlement reserve (amount of money) to pay your accident claim.
And cases where you take an ambulance to the hospital are worth more than those where you don’t. If you take an ambulance to the hospital, the responsible insurance company will likely assign more money for your pain and suffering claim. In addition, your medical bill charges will be higher. Bigger medical bills will often lead to a larger payout.
That said, just because you took an ambulance to the hospital after the accident, it does not mean that you have a great case. If you have minor injuries and don’t get much follow up treatment, your accident case may not be worth much.
Also, maybe you were 100% at fault for the causing the accident. In that instance, you are not entitled to compensation for pain and suffering.
Do some insurance companies offer less money for pain and suffering than others?
Yes. Certain insurance companies are known for offering less money for pain and suffering before a lawsuit.
The cheapest insurance companies are Progressive, Allstate, United Auto Insurance Company and Farmers.
To get fair value (for your injury) from one of these companies, there is a greater chance that you’ll need to sue.
On the other hand, some insurance companies have a reputation for paying above average for pain and suffering. These “better” insurance companies include The Hartford, Chubb, Crum & Forster, Hanover and others. (Ace Insurance Company bought Chubb.)
For example, CNA Insurance has a reputation for paying slightly above average for the pain and suffering part of a claim.
Let me give you another pain and suffering settlement example. My client was an Uber driver who was in a crash in Miami, Florida. While he was in the hospital, he searched for an Uber accident attorney. I’m proud to say that he found and hired me.
At the hospital, doctors diagnosed him with a fracture to the lamina of the T3 vertebrae. Other than his hospital stay, the Uber driver had limited medical treatment.
Fortunately, he did not need surgery. Here is a short video about the settlement:
In this case, I reached a $260,000 settlement.
Here is the settlement check:
CNA paid about $255,000 for his pain and suffering. The rest was for his medical bills that he owed.
This chart shows the breakdown of pain and suffering and the final medical bills and Medicaid lien:
Ray’s total settlement amount was around 49 times his final out of pocket medical bills (and Medicaid lien).
Check it out:
In other words, the pain and suffering multiplier was 49.
Of course, Ray had to pay me my attorney’s fees from the total settlement.
However, when the other driver’s insurance company calculates pain and suffering, they don’t factor in my lawyer fees.
If Ray would not have taken a loan against his case, after my attorney’s fees, costs and paying his medical bills and Medicaid lien, his portion of the settlement would have been $167,982.
However, Ray took a high interest loan against his case, which I had to pay back. Thus, he actually got less than $167,982 in his pocket.
What if I had been dealing with another insurance company?
Let’s take the above case that I settled for $260,000. Now, we’ll assume that GEICO, Progressive or State Farm (and not CNA) insured the other driver’s van. They would have offered much less…at least before a lawsuit.
By the way, that $260,000 settlement is one of the few Uber accident settlement amounts that you can find online.
Lyft’s old insurance company was Zurich American Insurance Company. (Travelers now handles all Lyft accident claims in the United States). Zurich has a reputation for paying above average for pain and suffering damages. As an example, I reached a $70,000 settlement for a Lyft passenger.
He was injured. He hurt his hand and foot but didn’t have surgery.
If you sue for an injury, you typically ask for compensation for the actual money that you’ve lost. You can also sue for pain and suffering that came from your injury.
Pain and suffering is different from mental anguish (emotional distress). Examples of mental anguish are depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and others. If you sue for mental anguish, the defendant can get access to your mental health records.
If you sue for pain and suffering, but not mental anguish, the defendant typically can’t get your mental health records.
Example (injured car accident victim could not get pain and suffering settlement without a lawyer)
Let’s now look at another case. Maureen’s son (Zach) was a passenger in a Thrifty rental car in Sarasota, Florida.
The driver of the car crashed into the car in front of them. Here is what the rental car looked like after the accident:
As a result of the crash, Zach broke his upper arm bone (humerus). After the accident, paramedics took Zach to the hospital. Maureen had the insight to take a photo of her son while he was in the hospital.
A few days after he left the Florida hospital, he had surgery on his home state.
You can see an x-ray of the plate and screws that the surgeon put in Zach’s arm:
At the end of the surgery, the doctors closed up the incision with staples.
Here is what his arm looked like with the staples:
Around the time of the surgery, his mom took another photo of Zach:
At first, Maureen tried to handle her son’s pain and suffering claim without a lawyer.
Insurance company didn’t offer her money for pain and suffering
By the time Maureen contacted me, ESIS (the claims company for the rental car) had not made her an offer.
Ace/Chubb insured the rental car company. However, ESIS did not give her the time of day. Here is what Maureen said:
I tried for the first couple months to deal with the insurance companies on my own and then realized I needed professional help.Part of Maureen’s quote on our Facebook page reviews.
Maureen was considering hiring a lawyer. She decided to get a free consultation with me. Some time after we spoke, she hired me as her lawyer. And I put the claim into warp speed.
Pain and suffering claims without an attorney are harder if you are badly hurt
Your case is more difficult if you have a serious injury. This is because your case will get assigned to a higher level adjuster. As an example, take Zach’s case above.
The case was ultimately assigned to ESIS bodily injury liability adjuster Norman Schwartzman. He has been handling claims since at least 2000. In other words, he is very experienced. Yes, Norman was respectful. However, trying to make a claim for pain and suffering without an attorney with such a seasoned adjuster is a mistake.
After Zach’s surgery, his arm healed well. He is not left with any disability at all. In 2019, I reached a $170,000 car accident settlement.
You can see the settlement checks:
About $169,200 of the settlement was for pain and suffering damages.
Here is a quote from my client’s 5 star review on Google Maps:
Example where entire $60K settlement was for pain and suffering
John lived in the Northeast United States. While in Florida for business, he stayed at a Marriott hotel in West Palm Beach, Florida. While taking a shower in his hotel bathroom, he closed the sliding door.
When he did so, the glass (on the door) exploded into many small pieces. Unfortunately, these pieces cut him in several areas on his hands and feet. Someone called 911. Paramedics came to the hotel. However, John refused a medical transport to the hospital.
Several days after the accident, John went to his podiatrist (foot doctor). He took glass out of John’s foot. After that, John then went back for a second visit since he had a small ulcer on his foot. (He was diabetic.) At those visits, John did not complain of knee pain.
John contacted a Massachusetts labor and employment attorney (Mickey Long). Mickey referred John to employee benefits and pension fund lawyer in Miami (Peter Herrera). Peter then referred the case to me. I’ve known Peter since the late 1990’s (before I was a lawyer).
Next, John got a free consultation with me.
After we spoke, he hired me (and the other two attorneys above). I gladly pay referral fees in accordance with Florida Bar rules.
Knee pain was first documented 2 months after the accident
A couple months after the accident, John complained to an orthopedic doctor about knee pain. Ultimately, the doctor took an MRI of his knee. John had a meniscus tear. Shortly thereafter, the doctor operated on his knee.
The Marriott denied liability. They told me to go after the shower door installer, or the glass manufacturer. This often happens in cases where shower glass shatters at a hotel.
At first, the Marriott refused to make an offer. Ultimately, we settled his personal injury claim with Marriott senior claims adjuster Michael Moore for $60,000. For 23 years, Michael has worked at Marriott International.
Michael was professional. However, he is a tough negotiator.
John’s health insurance company paid almost $5,000 in bills. And they wanted this money back!
The good news?
I got them to waive their lien. It took countless requests to get his health insurance plan to agree to waive their lien. Since the health insurer waived its lien, the entire settlement was for John’s pain and suffering. As you can see, this is another example where the entire settlement was for pain and suffering.
Take a look at Marriott’s settlement check:
John said this about us:
Many thanks to you and your law firm for representing me in my case against the Marriott Corporation. In the complexity of handling such a case you and your firm were spectacular and efficient on my behalf for a pleasing outcome and resolve. Thank you again.John’s review of us
Does surgery lead to a bigger pain and suffering Payout?
In my larger settlements, the claimant usually had surgery. Here is the actual data:
This is true for other attorneys’ settlements as well.
Bounce any case off a personal injury attorney or an insurance adjuster, and one of the first questions that they’ll ask is, “Did the claimant have surgery?”
When a claimant reports his injury claim to the insurance company, the insurer will ask what the injuries are. The insurer will send the claim to a higher level adjuster once it learns that the claimant had surgery.
Insurance companies typically set higher reserves if a claimant had surgery. This often results in claims adjusters having authority to assign more money to pain and suffering damages. This can result in a larger settlement.
You May Also Be Able to Get Money for Emotional Trauma
As I’ve discussed, claimants may be entitled to get compensation for physical pain.
In addition, you may be able to get compensation for emotional and psychological trauma in addition to pain and suffering.
For instance, a scar on your face can cause painful feelings of continuous embarrassment and insecurity. Insurance companies typically pay more for pain and suffering damages from facial scars than scars on other parts of the body. This is because scars on the face are more noticeable than scars on other parts of the body.
In one case, a passenger broke his arm in a car accident. A doctor performed surgery to his arm. As a result, it left a scar on his arm. Take a look at it:
I settled this personal injury case for $170,000. However, this same scar would have been worth a lot more if it was on my client’s face instead of his arm.
Men Get Lower Pain and Suffering Damages for Scars
As compared to woman, men typically get less compensation for pain and suffering for a scar. I settled a case for $31,500 for a man after a hotel glass shower door broke and cut his ankle.
A photo of the scar about a year and a half after the accident is below.
Almost the entire settlement was for pain and suffering. If the cut had left this scar on his face, instead of his ankle, the case would’ve been worth much more.
You can ask the insurance company for any amount that you believe your pain and suffering is worth. However, the insurance adjuster will typically offer an amount that he or she thinks is fair.
If you can’t reach an agreement with the insurance company, you can sue and let a jury decide.
Some claimants make the mistake of asking for too little in pain and suffering compensation. This can be a costly mistake.
Personal injury cases involve contingency fees, where lawyers are paid a percentage of the total settlement. This percentage includes the portion of pain and suffering damages.
Example of factors that can lead to a bigger pain and suffering settlement
Let’s get back to the $20,000 settlement (Cesar’s case) with GEICO that I mentioned earlier. When Cesar and I spoke during the free consultation, he asked me:
How much should I expect from my accident settlement?
I explained to him that there is no guarantee that he would get compensation. I also told him that GEICO is cheap. However, I pointed out the facts about his case that would likely lead to a bigger car accident settlement.
Here are some of them:
The other driver was clearly at fault. There was a lot of damage to the vehicles in the accident. An ambulance took him to the hospital. At the hospital, someone took a photo of him on the stretcher:
Shortly after leaving the hospital, he consistently received medical treatment.
Shortly after we spoke, he hired me. Cesar’s injuries were neck, back and knee pain. However, he did not have any broken bones. Ultimately, we settled his personal injury case with GEICO for $20,000.
Here is the settlement check:
70% of the Settlement is for Pain and Suffering
Cesar had insurance on his van with United Auto Insurance Company (UAIC). In December 2019, I settled Cesar’s personal injury case with GEICO for $20,000. This was less than 9 months after the accident.
As you can see from the chart below, approximately 70% of the settlement was for pain and suffering damages:
About 30% ($6,055) of the settlement was for was for his out of pocket medical bills.
Did GEICO offer to settle for a higher amount because Cesar’s minivan was badly damaged?
Yes. Basically, GEICO offered him a much bigger pain and suffering payout because his minivan was badly damaged. GEICO would have made a much smaller offer if Cesar’s vehicle was not badly damaged.
After my attorneys fees and costs, and paying all of his medical bills, Cesar got over $7,250 in his pocket. This chart shows the breakdown:
Cesar is very happy with the settlement.
Here is a photo of Cesar and I:
Are pain and suffering damages bigger in certain counties?
Jury awards for pain and suffering damages vary depending upon the socio-economic and political factors motivating them at the time in the particular place of the lawsuit.
Juries in democratic leaning county usually award more for pain and suffering. And so do insurance companies if the accident happened in one of these counties.
You have a better chance of getting a bigger pain and suffering multiplier if your accident happened in one of the blue counties below.
In the map of Florida, the counties that have more blue are liberal.
For example, if you’re injured in a county like Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, the jury awards for pain and suffering tend to be higher. Insurance companies know. Therefore, car accident and other settlements also tend to be higher.
Let me give you example from one of my settlements. Richie was driving a car in Miami, Florida. Another driver failed to yield at a stop sign and hit him.
Richie’s car sustained big damage in the crash. A tow truck driver removed it from the scene.
After the accident, Richie’s car looked like this:
As a result of the crash, Mike broke a bone in his hand (5th metacarpal).
You can see what the fifth metacarpal looks like:
A doctor operated on his hand. Mike did not want to handle your pain and suffering claim without a lawyer, so he got a free consultation with me. He hired me.
GEICO insured the at fault driver. Their first offer to settle was for $81,000. I told my client to refuse it.
Through intense negotiation, I settled the personal injury case for $125,000. Here’s a comparison between GEICO’s first offer and the settlement:
After I settled Richie’s case for $125,000, I needed to pay back $2,866 to his worker’s compensation insurer and doctor. This means that about $122,134 of the settlement was for pain and suffering damages.
This is another example that shows that pain and suffering is often the biggest part of most car accident payouts.
This accident happened in a liberal county (Miami-Dade). This settlement would have been smaller if the accident happened in a more conservative county. The settlement likely would have been smaller.
It may have been under $100,000. This is because GEICO would have offered less money for pain and suffering damages.
You can see how much Richie got in his pocket after my fees, costs and paying his medical bills:
The $125,000 settlement was about 44 times the final medical bills and workers’ compensation lien.
That’s a great result. In other words, the pain and suffering multiplier was 44.
$31K (of $33K Settlement) paid for pain and suffering damages
On July 30, 2018, Shankeva was a passenger in her boyfriend’s (Ken) car. They were stopped at a red light in Holly Hill, Florida. In the diagram below, Shankeva was in V3.
Terry was driving vehicle 1. Terry crashed head on into vehicle 2. Vehicle 2 then hit Vehicle 3.
Paramedics arrived at the scene.
You can see them taking Shankeva out of the car.
Below, is a photo showing the damage to the car within which Shankeva was a passenger.
The front of the car was wrecked.
You can see this was a heavy impact accident.
Here is a photo of Shankeva on a stretcher:
An ambulance took her to the hospital.
At the hospital, doctors took x-rays, a CT scan and a MRI of her hip.
The x-ray showed an acetabular fracture. Here is what the acetabulum looks like:
Since she had this fracture, they had her stay (inpatient) at the hospital.
They gave her a room.
While at the hospital, someone took a photo of her:
After she was released from the hospital, she had to use a walker to get around.
Shortly after her accident, Shankeva got a free consultation from me. She did not want to handle her pain and suffering claim without an attorney.
After we spoke, she hired me.
Does the 911 call add value to your pain and suffering damages?
The 911 call may increase your pain and suffering damages. This is because the adjuster (or jurors) can get a feeling for the severity of the accident.
We reached out to the police department and requested the 911 call. (It typically only costs around $5.00 or so.) What a great bargain.
You can listen to it here:
Four different people called 911. And you can hear in their voices that this accident was a big deal.
After the hospital discharged Shankeva, she used a walker to get around.
Here is a photo of Shankeva using a walker:
Ultimately, she made a great physical recovery. She was able to walk without needing any devices.
She did not want to handle her pain and suffering claim without a lawyer
Like many cases, there was limited insurance available. The at fault driver only had a $20,000 bodily injury liability (BIL) per accident policy.
My client was in her boyfriend’s (Ken’s) car. State Farm insured his car. Fortunately, he had $25,000 of uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage per person.
I presented her claim to State Farm in the light most favorable to Shankeva.
Within just 31 days of the accident, I got State Farm to issue a check for the $25,000 UIM policy limits. On August 30, 2018, they wrote the check. Shankeva was thrilled.
Take a look at the settlement check:
I also got the at fault driver’s insurance company to pay us $8,000 of the remaining $10,000 limit. The other $2,000 went to Shankeva’s boyfriend.
In total, I was able to get we were able to get Shankeva a $33,000 settlement.
Approximately, $31,000 of the settlement was for her pain and suffering damages.
The rest of the settlement was for medical bills and her Molina Medicaid insurance lien. I was able to get Molina Medicaid to reduce its lien (payback amount). Without a lawyer, they would not have reduced their lien.
After my attorneys fees and costs, Shankeva got around $22,000 in her pocket.
Take Photos of Your Injuries to Build Your Pain and Suffering Claim
Take photos of your injuries that can show the insurance company that you had pain. Let’s say that you were in a car accident, and paramedics put a collar on your neck. If they did, take a photo of this.
In one case, Sara was in a car accident in North Miami, Florida. Sara was in car 2 in this diagram:
Paramedics took her to the hospital.
At the emergency room, she took a selfie:
You can see that she was hurting. She did not want to handle her pain and suffering claim without a lawyer. After the accident, she hired me.
The above photo shows that she had a bruise on her right eye. At the hospital, they took an x-ray of her neck. It showed that she had a broken nose.
After the hospital released her, she had still had back pain. A doctor gave her a nerve block injection to the lower back.
I sent GEICO a photo of her before the accident. It showed that she is attractive.
I also sent the photo that showed her wearing a neck brace. In that photo, she had a bruised face.
We settled her case with GEICO for its insured’s $100,000 bodily injury liability limits.
90% of the settlement was for pain and suffering
As you can see, 90% of the settlement was for her pain and suffering:
When an insurance company makes a settlement offer, they do not factor in your attorney fees.
The rest of this $100,000 settlement paid for her out of pocket medical bills and health insurance lien. After my attorney’s fees, costs, and paying of Sara’s medical bills and health insurance liens, she got over $56,500 in her pocket.
She was happy with her settlement.
92% of $50K motorcycle accident settlement is for pain and suffering
Here is another example of a pain and suffering settlement. Pat heading North on his motorcycle in Land O Lakes, Pasco County, Florida. He was riding this motorcycle:
While doing so, a car ran a stop sign. They crashed.
Take a look at the crash diagram:
He had a broken collarbone (clavicle). Fortunately, he did not need surgery.
After this auto accident, he searched for a car accident lawyer. Pat did want make a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer.
He decided to get a free consultation with me. After we spoke, he hired me and I jumped into full gear.
Eventually, Travelers paid me the $50,000 limits to settle.
Here is the auto accident settlement check:
92% of the settlement was for pain and suffering. Basically, almost the entire settlement was for pain and suffering.
Pat’s pain and suffering payout was almost 10 times the amount of his out of pocket medical bills and health insurance lien. In other words, the pain and suffering multiplier was 10. This assumes that we used a pain and suffering multiplier of the actual medical bills that were paid, and not the total billed charges.
This case is a good example of why I don’t use a pain and suffering multiplier. If you look online, most articles say that you should use a multiplier of 1 to 5. But here, the multiplier was 10.
If I used a pain and suffering multiple of 5, Pat would have missed out on $25,000!
How much did the motorcycle rider get in his pocket after attorney fees and medical bills?
Pat’s health insurance paid a little over $3,700 to the hospital and his doctors. His out of pocket medical bills were under $380.
Pat got 59% of the settlement in his pocket after my attorney’s fees and costs, and paying his medical bills and health insurance lien.
The chart below shows this:
After my attorney’s fees, costs and paying his medical bills/liens, Pat got $29,235 in his pocket. He was thrilled.
If you can’t do activities, it increases the pain and suffering settlement
If you can no longer do activities because of an accident, this increases the full case value. This often leads to a bigger auto accident (or other case) settlement. This includes being unable to do things like go fishing, workout, run a marathon, or ride a bike.
If you were physically active before the accident, and your injuries decreased your activity, it helps your case. If you weren’t physically active before the accident, then the settlement value of your loss of enjoyment of life is less.
Insurer offers zero for pain and suffering claim without a lawyer
Here is another example of a pain and suffering settlement. Angela slipped and fell in the bathtub of a hotel in the Orlando area. She broke her arm.
At first, she tried to settle her claim without a lawyer. This is what she Angela said:
All I asked of the resort was to help with medical expenses, they refused.Part of Angela’s 5 star review of us on Google Maps
Basically, Angela did not have a lawyer and the hotel denied her pain and suffering claim. About twenty days after her fall, Angela completed the Free consultation form on my website.
I spoke with her on the very first call. We spoke for about one hour. Thereafter, she hired me as her lawyer.
Once I got involved, the resort’s insurance company was still tough.
Their first offer was $12,500.
I fought hard for Angela. Fortunately, I found some evidence that I argued put the hotel on notice of a hazard before Angela’s injury.
Ultimately, we settled her case for $250,000.
Here is the settlement check:
Take a look at the insurance company’s first offer vs. the settlement:
I was able to settle this case without the increased stress, attorney’s fees and costs that come with suing.
After Angela’s health insurance company paid her medical bills, and they reduced their lien, approximately $240,728 of the $250,000 settlement was for pain and suffering.
Thus, 96% of the settlement was for pain and suffering.
This $250,000 settlement amount was 27 times Angela’s out of pocket medical bills (and health insurance lien).
This is just one of my many pain and suffering settlement examples where my client benefited by having a lawyer.
After my attorney fees, costs and paying her medical bills, Angela got $157,353 in her pocket.
Your Fault Lowers Pain and Suffering Damages (Example in 2020)
During the day, Tiffany walked through an area at a mall where construction was ongoing. She tripped over a yellow caution tape and fell. Unfortunately, she did not have any good photos of the accident scene.
As a result of her trip and fall, she broke her foot and had surgery. The doctor put her foot in a cast.
After her fall, she hired me as her trip and fall lawyer. She did not want to handle her pain and suffering claim without a lawyer.
Within days of her fall, I met her at the mall. I took this photo showing her using a walker while her foot was in a cast:
Unfortunately, she had issues with her foot healing and had a mid-foot fusion surgery. While her foot was healing, her son dropped something on her foot. A doctor eventually removed the hardware.
I asked her to have someone take a photo of her during the surgery. Here it is:
Tiffany claimed that there was no other way for her to walk other than through the construction. Markel (Evanston Insurance Company) insured the mall.
Of course, Markel claimed that she had other ways where she could of walked. Markel also said that one of the construction workers warned her not to walk through the construction site.
When I calculated the value of her case, I cut it down a lot because she tripped and fell during broad daylight. In other words, a jury could easily believe that, before she tripped, Tiffany should have seen the caution tape that she tripped on.
Basically, a jury could have felt that she did not have to walk through the caution tape.
I Settled Her Case for $120K Because Proving Fault Was Hard
Given that it was tough to prove liability in her case, in May 2020, I settled her case for $120,000.
This would have been a tough case to evaluate with a pain and suffering calculator. Why?
Because most pain and suffering calculators do not factor in your percentage of fault.
If her fall would have occurred at night, she would have gotten more money. This is because she may not have been able to see the warning tape that she tripped on.
Take a look at the settlement check:
Since Tiffany did not have health insurance or Medicaid, she owed the hospital a lot of money. However, they greatly reduced her bill. Thus, most of Tiffany’s settlement was for pain and suffering damages.
Tiffany was happy that she did not handle her pain and suffering claim without a lawyer.
Example showing that pain and suffering damages is capped at the insurance policy limit
Yolanda was driving her SUV in Hollywood, Broward County, Florida.
Another driver (Beverly) made an improper lane change into Sara’s lane. This caused the car’s right rear to make contact with the SUV’s right front.
After contact, Beverly’s car came of the road and struck a stationary object. After Yolanda’s SUV was hit by the car, her SUV ran off the road. It then rolled over and came right side up.
Check out the damage to Yolanda’s SUV:
In the crash diagram below, Yolanda is driving vehicle 2.
Beverly is operating vehicle 1.
Above, you can see a photo of the damage to Yolanda’s SUV.
Here is a photo of the damage to Beverly’s car:
The community service officer (CSO) noted in the traffic crash report that there were tire marks on the road indicating that Beverly’s car was partially in Yolanda’s lane.
Paramedics transported Yolanda via ambulance to the hospital. The CSO determined that Beverly was at fault for the crash.
Yolanda did not want to handle her pain and suffering claim without a lawyer. After the accident, Yolanda got a free consultation with me.
After we spoke, she hired me. She had MRIs to her spine, and her knee. Doctors diagnosed her with a herniated disc, ACL sprain/tear and more.
The total available insurance limits were just $20K
Windhaven insured Beverly’s car. They paid us $10,000 to settle. They have since gone out of business, and the Florida Insurance Guaranty Fund (FIGA) is handling their claims.
In sum, we settled Yolanda’s personal injury case for the $20,000 policy limits.
If You Were Also At Fault, It Cuts Down Your Pain and Suffering Damages
By now, you know that you need someone else to be at fault in order get pain and suffering damages. But what happens if you are also at fault for causing your injury?
In a state like Florida, you can still get pain and suffering damages even if you are partially at fault. However, your pain and suffering damages are reduced by your percentage of fault.
Are pain and suffering damages smaller in conservative counties?
Yes. In conservative counties, insurance companies typically offer less for your pain and suffering damages. For example, many counties in Northwest Florida tend to have smaller pain and suffering verdicts. Thus, insurance companies will offer less money for pain and suffering damages for accidents that occurred in these counties.
Is there a cap of pain and suffering?
In some states there are maximum amounts that a jury may not legally exceed in awarding pain and suffering damages. For example, Florida used to have pain and suffering caps in medical malpractice cases.
However, Florida doesn’t currently have a limit on the amount that a jury can award for pain and suffering.
While a jury isn’t limited in that amount that it can award, judges can reduce a pain and suffering jury award if they feel that it is shocking. In one case, a teenager was killed and a jury awarded $4 million for each parent’s pain and suffering.
On March 28, 2007, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal (DCA) said that this verdict was excessive. It ordered the trial court to reduce the verdict.
Pain and Suffering Values Differ By State
The settlement value of the pain and suffering component for injuries in Florida cases is different from other states. Thus, if you’re a Florida resident and you’re hurt in an out of state car accident, you need to research pain and suffering values in the other state.
I only keep up date with Florida car accident settlements. This is because I am only licensed (as an attorney) in Florida.
Do insurers use recent jury verdicts and settlements to calculate pain and suffering?
Yes. However, the recent trend is taht I look at past jury verdicts to get the full settlement value of the pain and suffering component in a personal injury case. I then adjust the full value as necessary.
Some attorneys list their past verdicts on their websites. Of course, knowing about a verdict is better than nothing. However, to understand a verdict you must know the amount of money that was awarded for pain and suffering.
This is because most jury verdicts in personal injury cases also awarded money for medical bills. In some others, the jury also gives money for lost wages.
Many verdict summaries online do not say how much money was awarded for pain and suffering. As a result, there are of limited value.
Pain and Suffering Amounts Below Are Averages of Past Personal Injury Verdicts
Below, are full settlement values below are for injuries that happen in Florida or on a cruise ship. They are from settlements that I have had or past jury verdict searches that I’ve run.
These amounts are for pain and suffering before reducing the value by issues in the case. Issues can be difficulty proving liability, or fault on the injured person. Another factor that may decrease the full value is if it is tough to prove that the accident caused the injury.
Let’s start by looking at ankle and foot injuries.
Broken Ankle (Without Surgery)
A fractured ankle without surgery usually has a full value of pain and suffering between $10,000 and $30,000. However, if the ankle has some healing issues, the pain and suffering can easily increase.
Other Ankle or Foot Injuries
- Torn Ligament in Ankle Requiring Surgery: $25,000 to $50,000
- Trimalleolar Ankle Fracture With Surgery (ORIF): $125,000 to $175,000
- Humerus (upper arm) fracture on a child (no surgery): $25,000 to $60,000
- Broken arm (humerus) with surgery: $150,000 to $250,000
Should You Handle a Pain and Suffering Claim Without a Lawyer?
If you are injured, no.
While you’re never guaranteed a settlement, an attorney can help you present your pain and suffering claim in the light most favorable to you.
Some people try to get a pain and suffering settlement without a lawyer. This is a big mistake.
Because you won’t know the full settlement value of your pain and suffering. Thus, you’ll be at a big disadvantage when trying to settle your case.
The most important thing is to hire an attorney who is competent to handle your case.
Most lawyers charge the same fee. Therefore, you should hire an attorney that has settled hundreds of personal injury cases. I also suggest getting an lawyer who has dealt with your particular injury and type of accident. That attorney will understand your future limitations and associated pain.
Also, your may be entitled to discounts on some liens if you have an attorney. This includes workers’ compensation liens, Medpay liens and many health insurance liens. With an attorney in these cases, it may put a lot more money in your pocket.
Get a lawyer with at least 16 years experience primarily handling personal injury cases. Hire an attorney who is part of your state’s justice association.
For example, in Florida, there is a Florida Justice Association. I’m proud to say that I’ve been a member for many years. And I actively network with other injury lawyers on a weekly (and often daily) basis. We share intel on insurance companies.
What is a Common Split of a Settlement Between Client and Lawyer?
A common split of pain and suffering damages is one-third for the lawyer, one-third for the medical providers, and one-third for the victim.
Your chances of getting over 50% of the settlement in your pocket are highest if you have health insurance. This is because you will likely have to repay your health insurance company much less (from the settlement) than you would have to your medical providers if you don’t have health insurance.
Some attorneys will reduce their fee so that the client receives more money than the attorney.
I know an attorney whose goal was for his client to get half of the total settlement. I have had many settlements where my client received over half the settlement in their pocket (after my attorney’s fees, costs and paying their medical bills).
If a Court Gives You Money for Future Medical Bills, Do They Have to Give You Money for Pain and Suffering?
No. In Allstate Ins. Co. v. Manasse, 707 So.2d 1110 (Fla.1998), Myrda Manasse was injured in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver. She sued Allstate Insurance Company, her uninsured motorist insurer, for compensation.
The jury found that Manasse suffered a permanent injury. They awarded her $10,000 over a forty-year period for future medical expenses, $2,000 for past pain and suffering, and zero for future pain and suffering.
The court said that it was OK that the jury didn’t award money for pain and suffering, even though they awarded money for future medical bills.
Pain and Suffering is the Biggest Unknown in an Injury Case
There are several types of damages that you may be entitled to in a personal injury case.
The component that most people are clueless about is the value of the non-economic damages, which are bodily injury, pain and suffering, disability and physical impairment, disfigurement, mental pain and anguish, inconvenience or loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.
Insurance Companies Use a Range for Pain and Suffering
Claims adjusters use a range when placing a value on the pain and suffering component in an injury case. For example, an adjuster may say that the pain and suffering of a typical broken wrist in a Florida injury case is between $35,000 and $70,000.
There is no exact standard for measuring pain and suffering. However, accident attorneys and adjusters have a good idea of the full value pain and suffering. They know these values by looking at their own (or others’) past Florida jury verdicts and settlements.
Does more medical treatment get you more money for pain and suffering?
Generally speaking, the longer that you treat with a doctor, the higher the full value of pain and suffering. Different injuries have different values for pain and suffering. The amount is usually a range (e.g. $25,000 to $50,000). The higher end of the range is if you have a larger resultant disability. In other words, if you have serious limitations as a result of the injury.
The pain and suffering amount should be fair and just in the light of the evidence.
Does pain and suffering make up the biggest part of the settlement?
Often times, yes. But not always. Pain and suffering is one of the 76 Important factors affecting injury claims and settlements. Pain and suffering damages are often the largest part of a settlement.
Just because you have the same injury you should not think that you are going to get the same settlement as someone you know or another’s settlement that you read about in the media.
The difficulty in determining how much money you may get is one of the 11 reasons to hire an accident lawyer if you’re injured.
Most people don’t know the settlement range for the pain and suffering element of a claim. The saying that the pain and suffering component is worth a multiple of the medical bills is often not true.
That is one of the 5 Huge problems with pain and suffering calculators.
As a personal injury lawyer, the injured person or his/her lawyer needs to know the average settlement value of pain and suffering for different types of injuries. This will allow you to know when to settle without lawsuit, and when to sue.
A liability claims adjuster needs to know the value of pain and suffering so that he or she can make a fair settlement offer.
Higher Chance That Your Case Settles if You Estimate Pain and Suffering Correctly
If both sides (the injured person and the liability insurance adjuster) assign an overlapping range to the pain and suffering component, then both sides are one step closer to settlement.
Both sides should assign a value for pain and suffering that overlaps. If one side mis-evaluates the pain and suffering component of a case, it makes the case more difficult to settle.
Over the past several years, I have represented people injured on cruise ships or boats in Florida. I have learned the full value of pain and suffering for purposes of settlement in a personal injury case.
Hand and Elbow Injury Settlements
Here are some other examples of pain and suffering settlement ranges in Florida. These are for just the full value of pain and suffering damages in the the case. As with all full values, these pain and suffering ranges assume that someone else was 100% fault. (Remember, you may also entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages and more.)
- Simple elbow fracture that heals without surgery: $40,000 to $50,000
- Elbow fracture with surgery (plates and/or screws inserted): $150,000 to $250,000
How much are lower back and neck injuries worth?
Check out some full values for the pain and suffering component of the case. They apply for Florida cases.
- Herniated Disc Settlement Value: $25,000 to $50,000
- Bulging Disc Settlement Value: $10,000 to $15,000
- Lower Back or Neck Fusion Surgery (One level): $250,000 to $350,000
Past Florida jury verdicts generally put the pain and suffering value of a single level fusion surgery at $250,000 to $350,000. However, it could be higher.
For example, assume someone else’s negligence caused Mike to have a one level fusion lumbar (back) or cervical (neck) fusion surgery.
The fusion surgery is a success. Mike treats in total for 10 months. The fusion surgery is clearly related to the accident. Assume Mike didn’t have a pre-existing injury to the level of his spine that was fused.
Past jury verdicts for this scenario put the value of a pain and suffering between $250,000 to $300,000. Some Florida personal injury lawyers may value the pain and suffering at a little higher than $300,000.
However, $350,000 would generally be upper limit on the pain and suffering component in Mike’s personal injury case.
Do insurance companies pay more if more than 1 level of the spine is fused?
All things equal, yes. If more than one level is fused, the pain and suffering settlement value is generally higher. However, as with any injury case, there is no guarantee that you’ll get a penny.
Here are some pain and suffering settlement range examples. Again they apply to Florida car accident settlements and other types of cases.
- Lower Back or Neck Fusion Surgery (Two levels): $250,000 to $400,000
- Neck or Lower Back Fusion Surgery (Four levels): $300,000 to $500,000
- Lower Back Discectomy Surgery: $150,000 to $250,000
- Lower Back Laminotomy or Laminectomy Surgery: $150,000 to $250,000
- Compression fracture (in the spine): $15,000 to $100,000+
- Burst fracture (with 2 level spinal fusion): $250,000 to $400,000
- Burst fracture (with 4 level spinal fusion): $300,000 to $500,000
A burst fracture is an injury to the spine in which the vertebral body breaks due to immediate and severe compression. They typically occur from severe trauma, such as a car accident or a fall from a height.
With a great deal of force vertically onto the spine, a vertebra may be crushed. Pieces of the vertebra shattering into surrounding tissues and sometimes the spinal canal.
Will an adjuster have an additional $100K to offer you above their initial offer?
From my experience, only if you either had a very long hospital stay (like 6 days or more) or if you had surgery with hardware put in your body. And even if one (or both of those occurred), getting the adjuster to off you or your attorney an extra $100,000 – above the initial offer – is not guaranteed. It will come down to the facts of the case.
Let’s say that an adjuster makes me an initial offer of $150,000. If I have dealt with that adjuster before, I have an idea of where the settlement will end up.
I’ll look at my past cases with that adjuster to see if the case is more likely to settle at $200,000, or $260,000 or over $320,000 (or more). History often repeats itself.
Here is a letter where an insurance company made a first offer of $150,000 for pain, suffering and other damages.
We ended up settling for $260,000.
At least 1 state doesn’t require bodily injury liability coverage
Believe it or not, at least one state (Florida) does not mandate private passenger cars to have BIL coverage. Sure, you can sue the at fault driver. However, if you deposit the policy limits check in your bank, then you typically cannot sue the at fault driver.
Do attorneys know how much particular adjusters offer for pain and suffering?
An attorney should have a general idea if he or she has settled cases with that adjuster before. For example, my case management solution keeps track of my settlements with insurance companies and adjusters. (One of the many reasons to hire a personal injury lawyer is that – hopefully – they have a case management program.)
I keep track of demands and offers in all of my cases. This includes accident settlements, slip and falls and more. And of course, I know the final settlement amount.
It’s important to track past negotiations with adjusters. Knowledge is king when it comes to negotiation and car accident settlements.
Some adjusters will make an initial opening offer that is close to their final offer. For example, a car hit a bike rider in North Miami Beach, Florida.
You can see his bike below:
Fortunately, he did not break any bones in the accident.
After the crash, he had cuts and scrapes. Take a look:
Shortly after the accident, he had a disclored skin on his thigh.
After the accident, the injured bicyclist search for a bike accident lawyer. He did not want to handle his pain and suffering claim without a lawyer. I represented the bicyclist.
Progressive insured the car and assigned adjuster Yuni Echemendia to handle my client’s bodily injury claim.
However, for purposes of his pain and suffering claim, we had a problem:
By the time that I made my settlement demand, Progressive’s adjuster could not see any scars.
In 2020, I settled his personal injury case for $14,200.
Progressive’s first offer was 83% of their final offer
Yuni’s opening offer was around $11,800. We settled for $14,200. Basically, her opening offer was 83% of her final offer. If I have another Progressive case with Yuni, I will remember this percentage.
Obviously, my client’s case value is what is most important to me. But knowing the adjuster’s negotiation style is important.
Mortality Tables May Be Used to Calculate Future Pain and Suffering
If the injured person has a permanent injury, the adjuster may consider his or her life expectancy. The mortality tables may be considered in determining how long the injured person may be expected to live.
The adjuster does not have to use the mortality tables but they may consider them together with other evidence in the case bearing on injured person’s health, age and physical condition, before and after the injury, in determining the probable length of his or her life.
What is the typical payout for a shoulder injury?
Here are some examples of full values for pain and suffering settlements ranges for shoulder injuries. Again, they are for Florida cases. They are just for the pain and suffering part of the case. Keep in mind that values greatly differ by county.
- Rotator cuff tear (no surgery): $40,000 to $75,000, possibly higher
- Rotator cuff (surgery): $100,000 to $175,000
- Torn Labrum (no surgery): $40,000 to $75,000
- Torn Meniscus: $20,000 to $30,000
- Meniscus (surgery): $40,000 to $80,000. May Be Worth Much More if a Surgery on the Medial Meniscus.
Here are some other pain and suffering settlement values for knee injuries:
Lower Leg Injury Pain and Suffering Values
I’ve seen jury verdicts for the pain and suffering component of broken lower leg bone (without surgery) in the $35,000 to $75,000 range. The lower leg bones are the tibia and fibula.
Example of Pain and Suffering Settlement (Broken Leg)
A car hit a pedestrian in Florida. The pedestrian was in Miami Beach on vacation from another state.
The pedestrian hired me to represent him. GEICO paid $65,000 to settle his personal injury case.
Medicare, AARP (United Healthcare), Farmers Insurance (med pay) paid the bulk of his medical bills. Thus, he had to pay them back from the settlement.
The good news?
When it came time to pay them back from the total settlement, they all reduced their liens by my attorney’s fees and costs.
Thus, the total out of pocket medical bills and liens were about $8,000. Therefore, GEICO paid about $57,000 for the pain and suffering part of the pedestrian’s accident settlement.
Examples of pain and suffering settlement ranges for other leg injuries:
Amputation (below the knee): $500,000 to $750,000
Hip Fracture (no surgery): $50,000 to $75,000; surgery (ORIF): $250,000 to $400,000
- Femur/Thigh bone (fracture/break) with surgery (ORIF) Settlement Value: $250,000 to $500,000
- Skin graft: $50,000 to $75,000
Once you know the full value of the pain and suffering component, you then insert that number into a formula to calculate the full value of damages.
Insurance Companies Reduce Pain and Suffering by the Victim’s Fault
When calculating how much your owed, reduce your pain and suffering by your percentage of fault. You then have the settlement value for the pain and suffering component of the case.
For example, lets say that you were a pedestrian standing next to your car. The car hits you. The driver could say that you shouldn’t have been in the street.
To keep it simple, we’ll put 10% of the fault on you. Thus, the truck driver is 90% at fault. Your entitled to 90% of the full value of pain and suffering. If the full value of your pain and suffering is $225,000, then you’d get 90% of it, which is $202,500.
You can still make a claim for your medical bills and lost wages.
Do I have to pay taxes on a pain and suffering settlement?
Generally, no. The IRS has wrote a publication that says if you receive a settlement for personal injury, the settlement is non-taxable.
Here is part of the publication’s first page:
I added the box that says most settlements are not taxable. The actual law is Section 104(a)(2), Internal Revenue Code.
However, some personal injury settlements may be taxable. Specifically, if you agree to a confidential settlement for pain, suffering or other damages, you may have to pay taxes on part of the settlement. Specifically, you’ll have to pay taxes on the part of the settlement that was paid for confidentiality.
This is why I do not like confidential settlements. Don’t let the insurance company tell you that all of their settlements are confidential. For 99% of companies, this simply is not true.
Witnesses May Affect the Settlement Value
The claimant’s witnesses may be a big factor in how much compensation is awarded for pain and suffering. Sometimes the insurance company will speak to witnesses before a lawsuit. The adjuster will decide whether he thinks the witness is honest and credible.
The witnesses can describe whether they saw the claimant in pain after the accident. When I ask a witness (who saw the accident) to sign an affidavit, I ask them to describe the claimant’s pain.
If a witness affidavit says that the claimant appeared to be in a lot of pain at the accident scene, it can help increase the value of the case.
Pain and Suffering Compensation is Tough to Get in Some Car Accident Cases
Some states have No Fault laws that require car owners to have No-fault insurance. Basically, car owners in these states are required to have PIP coverage that pays for medical bills. PIP pays regardless of fault.
In states like Florida, there is trade off for this No-fault coverage. Let me explain.
In most Florida car accident cases, you need a threshold injury in order to get compensation for pain and suffering. What happens if the insurance company does not think that your injury meets the tort threshold threshold?
The adjuster will reduce the full value of your pain and suffering by the estimated percentage chance that you won’t be able to meet the tort threshold. This can really cut down the value of a car accident case. It is a bad law for people injured in car accident who are not at fault.
Example of Pain and Suffering Car Accident Settlement with a Rental Car Company (2020)
Here is another pain and suffering settlement example with a rental car company. In March 2019, Lamar was driving his car in a Wendy’s drive thru lane in Oakland Park, Broward County, Florida.
Joan was driving a car and crashed into the back of Lamar’s car. After the crash, Lamar took this photo of the damage to his car.
As you can see from the photo, this was a big hit.
I’ve repeated this over and over:
Big property damage often leads to a bigger car accident settlement.
On the crash report, the owner of the car that Ashley was driving was PV Holding. PV Holding is the parent company for Avis Rent a Car.
After the car accident, Lamar went to the hospital. He then followed up with a doctor and got therapy.
Segwick handled the claim for Avis Car Rental. I sent a letter requesting the bodily injury liability coverage on the rental car.
Avis responded with their insurance disclosure under oath. We learned that Ashley was not the person who rented the car. Eugene had rented the car.
74% of the Car Accident Settlement was for Pain and Suffering
When he rented the car, he did not list Ashley as an additional driver. And since Ashley wasn’t his wife, Sedgwick did not offer bodily injury liability coverage above $10,000.
This is true even though Eugune purchased Additional Liability Insurance (ALI) with Avis.
In January 2020, I reached a car accident settlement with Sedgwick for its $10,000 policy limits. Here is the check:
This is the most that we could get. There was no other additional insurance available. Approximately $7,400 of the total settlement was for Lamar’s pain and suffering.
After my attorney’s fees and costs, and paying his medical bills, Lamar got over $4,000 in his pocket. And his attorney (me) did all the work. He was very happy with the settlement.
How long does it take to get a settlement for pain and suffering?
The time that it takes to settle your pain and suffering claim depends upon several factors. First, it depends on how badly you are injured. All things equal, if you’re badly injured the case will settle faster.
The second factor is amount of insurance limits available. The smaller the bodily injury liability limits, the quicker the payout for pain, suffering and other damages.
The third factor is how fast you (or your lawyer) sends your medical records and/or bills to the insurance company. The sooner that you give this info to the insurer, the faster the settlement. Again, all things equal.
Now, the bad news. There is no guarantee that you’ll get a settlement for your pain and suffering. Simply put, there are many factors that affect whether you’ll get compensation.
How can you find see examples of a particular adjusters’ settlements for pain and suffering?
At least one state (Florida) lets you look up civil remedy notices (CRN) that were filed against a particular insurance company. Basically, someone (usually a lawyer) filed a notice complaining that an insurance company failed to properly handle a claim. Most often, the attorney’s complaint is that insurance company refused to pay the uninsured motorist insurance policy limits.
In about 50% of these notices, the injured person’s attorney says the actual amount that the insurance company offered to settle the case. This is great if you want to look up Lyft and Uber settlement offers. (However, Lyft just dropped its uninsured motorist coverage in Florida.) It’s nice because Uber and Lyft accident settlements are confidential.
The civil remedy notice (CRN) often mentions the medical bill amount
Often times, in the civil remedy notice, the lawyer says the amount of the injured person’s medical bills. From this, you get a can a general idea of how much compensation the insurance company offered for pain and suffering damages. This is one way of trying to estimate pain and suffering settlement examples for certain insurance companies.
In Florida, you can’t get more than the uninsured motorist insurance policy limits unless you file this notice. If you go to the Department of Financial Services Civil Remedy System, it lets you search for existing filings. Here, you can actually search for complaints against a particular adjuster.
If you want to see some examples of how much a specific claims adjuster pays for pain and suffering damages, search by his or her name. You’ll likely come to a quick realization:
The sweet adjuster (in your case) is cheap when it comes to offering to settle!
In other words, getting a fair accident settlement won’t be easy.
Here is something else that you’ll notice when looking up CRNs:
Almost of all them are filed by lawyers (for their injured clients). It seems that people without lawyers are not being aggressive enough in uninsured motorist claims. This leads me to believe that people who handle their pain and suffering claim without an attorney are not getting fair compensation.
These injured people are flying blind in their pain and suffering claim without a lawyer.
How Your Personality Affects Your Payout
The personality of the injured victim may affect his or her payout. Juries tend to give more money for pain and suffering if they like the plaintiff.
When I was an insurance defense attorney (in 2004), I would take the plaintiff’s deposition (testimony under oath). My report to the insurer said whether or not the claimant was likable.
I would give the insurer the settlement range for the case. Insurers authorize a higher figure in the settlement range if the claimant is likable.
If a case settles before a lawsuit, the claimant’s personality may have less of an effect.
Example of Pain and Suffering Settlement Where Personality Mattered Less
For example, I represented a motorcycle rider after a truck hit him in Miami-Dade County, Florida. After the accident, the motorcyclist got a free consultation with me.
In that case, and the insurance adjuster never got a chance to speak with the claimant. Thus, the adjuster did not get to size up my client’s personality. He valued the case based on the medical records, bills, injury photos and other evidence.
On the other hand, if you sue, your personality has a greater effect on the case. I sued a supermarket in a slip and fall case.
During the lawsuit, the defense attorney took a 8 hour deposition of my client. Yes, 8 hours! The deposition was so long because my client did not speak English. We used an interpreter. My client’s pleasant personality helped us get a $300,000 settlement.
How much money can you get for pain and suffering for a brain injury?
Brain injuries can be valuable in terms of settlement value. You don’t need to have a plate put in your skull to have chance at getting a big payout in a head injury case.
One key to increasing your chances of receiving a big pain and suffering settlement in a head injury case is if you get a brain MRI that has an abnormal finding. “Abnormal” means that that your brain isn’t normal.
On the MRI report, look for the word “abnormal”. If the radiologist says one or more of the following on the MRI report, it increases the full value of your pain and suffering:
- Abnormal constellation of finding involving both cerebral hemispheres along frontal lobe gray-white matter interfaces.
- The abnormal findings are in the common location for posttraumatic axonal shearing injury.
- The gray-white matter interface is commonly involved in shearing injury in trauma.
- It’s likely or medically probable that the above findings may be areas of posttraumatic axonal shearing injury related to the accident.
Diffuse axonal injury is the shearing (tearing) of the brain’s long connecting nerve fibers (axons) that happens when the brain is injured as it shifts and rotates inside the bony skull. It increases the value of your pain and suffering payout.
If your doctor tells you that your brain shifted (and rotated), be sure to get a copy of a MRI or CT scan that shows this. You want to quickly get a copy of that report to the at fault party’s insurance company They can then assign a higher level adjuster to your case who can request the proper settlement authority to compensate you for your pain and suffering.
If your MRI report says that you had shearing due to trauma, this is good for your case. This means that the radiologist believes that the accident caused the shearing (tearing) of your brain’s fibers.
It also helps your case if the accident caused your head to get shaken around if your car turned multiple times after the impact. The same is true if your car flipped over.
If your head was shaken around a lot, be sure to tell this to the paramedics, police officer, hospital and your doctors. If you sue, you should mention it to the at fault driver’s insurance company’s lawyer.
Example of a pain and suffering settlement in a brain injury case
Let’s say that you’re in a car accident. You go to the hospital and complain of head and back pain. The doctor at the hospital examines you, takes some x-rays and releases you a few hours later.
Your MRI report says that you have a post-traumatic axonal shearing injury. You tell your doctors that you have memory loss, concentration issues, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, depression, stress and sleep issues.
Let’s assume that you also have surgery to another body part due to the accident. Perhaps you have surgery to fix your broken arm. Or maybe you had back or neck surgery. However, you’re still able to work at your job.
In the above scenario, you’re pain and suffering may be worth between $1 and $2 million (or more) even though you appear normal to strangers. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have memory loss, concentration issues, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, depression, stress and sleep issues. Those symptoms make it easier for the insurance company to get authority to pay you more in pain and suffering damages.
The at fault party’s insurance company is more likely to settle your brain injury case faster if their policy limits are lower. They are also likely to pay you more money to settle your head injury case if the at fault driver was talking on the phone at the time of the accident.
This is especially true if he or she was working at the time of the accident. This is because you may be able to sue him/her and their employer for punitive damages.
Like all cases, a better insurance company will pay you more for pain and suffering for a brain injury than a cheaper insurer. Companies like Nationwide Insurance, The Hanover Insurance Group, Scottsdale Insurance, Chubb, Crum and Forster, and The Hartford are likely to pay the most for pain and suffering in brain injury cases.
Now I’d Like to Hear From You
There you have it: my definitive guide to pain and suffering claims.
Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:
Do you have a pain and suffering claim?
If so, how is it going?
Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.
Were you injured in Florida, or on a cruise?
If you answered yes, and you think someone else is at fault, I want to represent you. I want to fight to get you a big auto accident settlement or other payout.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated.