I’m going to talk about pain and suffering in injury claims. Then, I’ll talk about how to determine how much pain and suffering is worth. You’ll see real settlements.
Finally, you’ll see how much money is typically awarded for pain and suffering for certain injuries.
Pain and suffering is the legal term for a type of damages caused by an injury.
Which Injuries May 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. After making that video, I added content to this article. Thus, this article is more in-depth than the video.
You may be able to get compensation for pain and suffering 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, as a whole, insurance companies likely pay much more for pain and suffering for claims before trial than as a result of a verdicts.
Some Insurers Offer Less Than Others for Pain and Suffering
However, certain insurance companies are known for offering less money for pain and suffering before a lawsuit.
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.
For example, CNA Insurance has a reputation for paying slightly above average for the pain and suffering part of a claim.
I settled an Uber accident case where CNA paid about $255,000 for the pain and suffering component of an Uber driver’s fracture to the lamina of the T3 vertebrae.
The Uber driver was in an accident. He didn’t even have surgery. Here is a short video about it:
Now let’s assume that the other driver wasn’t insured with CNA. We’ll assume that GEICO, Progressive or State Farm insured his vehicle. They would’ve 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 insurer company, Zurich American Insurance Company, has a reputation for paying above average for the pain and suffering part of the claim. As an example, I settled a Lyft passenger’s injury claim for $70,000 where he was in a car accident. 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.
Sending a Demand Letter May Get You An Offer
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 the claimant’s medical treatment.
A claimant doesn’t need to send this letter to get an offer from an insurance company. However, a demand letter shows the insurance company that you are organized and intelligent.
You don’t have to ask the insurance company for a certain amount of money for pain and suffering. Some very experienced attorneys don’t ask for a certain amount. I’ve settled many cases where I didn’t ask the insurance company for a certain amount of money for pain and suffering.
In certain cases, it may be better to not ask for a certain amount of money for pain and suffering.
One reason is that, 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.
A claimant can ask the insurance company to make the first settlement offer. Most insurance companies will make the first offer.
What is the Average Settlement Amount for 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, I believe that the average payout for pain and suffering in most claims if 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. If you look at my larger settlements, you will find a couple of common factors.
Surgery Often Results in Higher Pain and Suffering Payouts
In my larger settlements, the claimant usually had surgery. 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 the pain and suffering part of the claim. 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 the pain and suffering 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.
Men Often Get Less Money for Scars Than Women
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.
What is a Common Split of a Settlement Between Client and Lawyer
A common split of pain and suffering can be one-third for the lawyer, one-third for the medical providers, and one-third for the victim. 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.
Pain and Suffering Values Vary Based on the County Where the Trial Will Be
Jury awards for pain and suffering vary depending upon the socio-economic and political factors motivating them at the time in the particular place of the lawsuit. Democratic leaning counties are known for juries awarded more for pain and suffering.
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. The same would apply if someone was visiting Florida and injured in a car accident in one of these counties.
On the other hand, conservative counties typically have smaller pain and suffering settlements and verdicts. Many counties in Northwest Florida tend to have smaller pain and suffering verdicts. Thus, the adjuster’s offer for the pain and suffering component may be smaller for accidents that occurred in these counties.
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.
Claimant’s Personality Affects Compensation
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. For example, I settled a case for $445,000 without filing a lawsuit, and the insurance adjuster never got a chance to speak with the claimant. Thus, other than what the medical records said, the adjuster didn’t get to size up my client’s personality.
On the other hand, if you sue, your personality has a greater effect on the case. I sued in a slip and fall case, and the defense attorney took a 8+ hour deposition of the claimant. The claimant’s pleasant personality helped us get a $300,000 settlement.
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.
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.
I settled a car accident case for $300,000 where the victim broke the top of his lower leg bone (tibial plateau). The pain and suffering component of the settlement was about $293,000, or 97% of the settlement. (Workers’ compensation paid most of the medical bills. We only had to pay workers’ comp back $4,000 or so from my client’s settlement.)
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.
Anything that you can’t now do, because of an accident, increases the full case value. 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.
Does Having an Attorney Make a Difference in the Settlement Amount?
Possibly. 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.
The most important thing is to hire an attorney who is competent to handle your case.
Since most lawyers charge the same fee, hire a lawyer that has settled hundreds of personal injury cases. I suggest getting a lawyer who has dealt with your particular injury and type of accident. That attorney will understand your future limitations and associated pain.
Get a lawyer with at least 14 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 the Florida Justice Association. I’m proud to say that I’ve been a member for many years.
Do Insurance Companies Have Set Amounts That They Pay for Pain and Suffering?
Certain insurers are known for paying particular ranges to settle. Some insurance companies allow their adjusters to have more authority to settle the case. More senior level adjusters typically have more check writing authority.
I know of one large auto insurer that allows its bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance adjusters to settle cases for up to $10,000 without approval.
Some insurers, like USAA, are willing to offer more for pain and suffering to avoid a lawsuit. Others take a harder stance. For example, Travelers Insurance Company used to have a reputation for paying above average for the pain and suffering component of the claim. Some attorneys feel that they are now slightly below average.
However, if you have a good case they may still pay good value. For example, I represented a motorcycle rider after a car hit him. He had a broken collarbone (clavicle). He didn’t need surgery. Travelers paid the $50,000 limits.
Almost the entire settlement was for pain and suffering. The settlement also covered the motorcycle rider’s medical bills. This is just one of example of a motorcycle accident settlement where most of the payout was for pain and suffering.
Some insurance companies go through cycles (years) where they make smaller offers. A few years later, they loosen up. Them, they pay better for a few years. However, they usually become cheap again.
When the economy is bad, insurers usually pay less for pain and suffering. In good economic times, they are usually willing to pay more.
Many insurers, like Allstate, use claims software that tells them how much they can offer in pain and suffering. As you claim gets to a higher level adjuster, he or she relies less on the software.
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.
Though there is no exact standard for measuring pain and suffering, attorneys and adjusters have a good idea of the full value pain and suffering by looking at past Florida jury verdicts and settlements.
More Treatment = Higher Full Value of Pain and Suffering
Generally speaking, the longer that you treat with a doctor, the higher the full value of pain and suffering.
Higher End of Range is if You Have a Larger Resultant Disability
The amounts below may also be towards the higher range or higher than the top end of the range if you have a significant resultant disability.
Pain and Suffering Should Be Fair Based on Evidence
The pain and suffering amount should be fair and just in the light of the evidence.
Pain and Suffering May Be Biggest Part of Settlement
Pain and suffering is one of the 76 Important factors affecting injury claims and settlements. However, 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 injury settlement 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 in order to properly know when to settle before a 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 Case Settles if Your Pain and Suffering Estimation is Right
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.
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.
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.
Insurers Use Recent Jury Verdicts and Settlements To Calculate Pain and Suffering
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.
You Need to Know Amount Awarded for Pain and Suffering in Jury Verdict
Some attorneys list their past verdicts on their websites.
Although knowing past verdicts is better than nothing, to understand a verdict you must know the amount of money that was awarded for pain and suffering.
Many verdict summaries online don’t say how much money was awarded for pain and suffering.
Pain and Suffering Amounts Below Are Averages of Past Florida Personal Injury Verdicts
The values below are for injuries that happen in Florida or on a cruise ship. They are from past jury verdict searches that I’ve run.
Ankle and Foot Injuries:
- Fractured Ankle (Broken Ankle) – No Surgery: $10,000 to $30,000
- Torn Ligament in Ankle Requiring Surgery: $25,000 to $50,000
- Trimalleolar Ankle Fracture With Surgery (ORIF): $125,000 to $175,000
- 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
- Herniated Disc Settlement Value in Florida : $25,000 to $50,000
- Bulging Disc Settlement Value in Florida: $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.
If more than one level is fused, the pain and suffering settlement value is higher.
- 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.
- 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.
- Patella fracture (no surgery): $50,000 to $75,000
- Total Knee Replacement: $100,000 to $200,000
Lower Leg Injuries
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.
For example, a car hit a pedestrian in Miami Beach. 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.
Other Leg Injuries:
Amputation (below the knee): $500,000 to $750,000
- Humerus fracture on a child (no surgery): $25,000 to $50,000
- Humerus fractured on an adult (no surgery): $30,000 to $60,000
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
Now use Pain and Suffering Value to Get “Full Value” of Case
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.
Pain and Suffering Compensation is Tough to Get in Some Florida Auto Cases
This means that you may have to reduce the full value of your case if you think there is a chance that you won’t be able to meet the tort threshold.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated.