How Is Pain and Suffering Determined in Washington, DC?

By Peter DePaolis

Pain and suffering is an umbrella phrase that can refer to any and all noneconomic losses during a personal injury lawsuit. In Washington, DC, the civil courts permit injured parties to demand compensation from at-fault parties for their pain and suffering. Calculating these damages, however, takes a special type of equation based on the individual’s unique experience.

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

The courts in DC encourage victims to demand compensation for both their economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are easier to calculate, as they refer to the tangible losses and out-of-pocket expenses. Noneconomic damages (also called general damages), however, refer to intangible losses.

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional trauma
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship or guidance
  • Lost quality or enjoyment of life
  • Psychological distress
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Calculating an economic damage award requires medical bills, transportation expenses, and lost wage forms. These are all losses with paper records detailing exact dollar amounts. Noneconomic damages, on the other hand, do not come with monetary values. Instead, it will take an analysis of the individual’s unique experiences to calculate these damages.

Multiplier Method

The two main methods juries use when calculating the appropriate amount of a pain and suffering award are the multiplier and the per diem methods. The multiplier method is the most common. This technique first calculates the victim’s economic losses. Then, it takes this dollar amount and multiplies it by a number between one and five. The number the jury picks will depend on many different factors.

  • The victim’s age
  • The severity of the injuries
  • Permanent vs. temporary injuries
  • Level of disability
  • Nature of a disfigurement
  • How much the accident impacted the victim
  • Any preexisting conditions
  • Amount of economic damages suffered

Choosing one as the multiplier means the jury believes the victim’s noneconomic losses are minor. Multiplying economic losses by five would mean extreme pain and suffering. A lawyer can help sway the jury’s decision by describing the victim’s losses more clearly, as well as providing proof such as medical records and statements from experts.

Per Diem Method

The per diem calculation method is more common in cases where experts do not expect the victim’s pain and suffering to last forever. If a reasonable expectation exists that the victim’s life will be back to normal within the year, for example, the jury might use the per diem method instead of the multiplier method. Per diem translates to per day in Latin. The jury will allocate a specific amount of pain and suffering per day (often equal to the victim’s lost wages), and then multiply this by the number of days it will take the victim to recover.

Caps on Damages

Many states impose caps, or limits, on the amount a victim can receive in pain and suffering damages. In the District of Columbia, however, no such cap exists. There is no cap on pain and suffering damages in any type of injury claim – even claims against the government. The amount you could receive for your pain and suffering is limited only to your unique losses and the skill of your personal injury attorney.

What Is Your Case Worth?

Every personal injury claim is unique. If you are curious as to the total potential value of your case, speak to an attorney in DC for an honest evaluation. A lawyer will work to maximize your compensation award through proven negotiation strategies. Your attorney will understand the best ways to convince a jury that you deserve pain and suffering damages after suffering an injury or illness in DC. During your free initial consultation, and attorney can listen to your story, find out how an injury has impacted your life, and give you an accurate case value.

Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.