How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in Oklahoma?
An accident or injury has a lasting impact regardless of its severity, especially when that injury occurs as a result of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing. Even mild to moderate injuries mean trauma, pain, time away from work, and unaffordable medical bills. More serious injuries can be life-altering and may cause a diminished quality of life. While it’s relatively easy to arrive at a number for compensation for economic damages by calculating existing medical bills, estimating future medical bills, and determining an amount for lost wages, lost future wages, and lost income potential, less tangible costs of an injury aren’t as easy to appraise. How do Oklahoma courts calculate a monetary amount for pain and suffering?
Understanding Non-Economic Damages in Oklahoma
The effects of physical and emotional pain and suffering an injury victim experiences after an accident are often more harmful to their quality of life than the economic damages they suffer from lost wages and mounting medical bills. Non-economic damages include the following under Oklahoma law:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Disfigurement and permanent scarring
- Loss of consortium (the companionship and physical relationship with a loved one) or loss of relationship quality with children
- Other intangible losses such as lost training and education opportunities, loss of guidance, support, care, and assistance from the injured family member
All of the above are non-monetary damages covered under Oklahoma’s statutes; however, these damages don’t come with invoices and cannot be replaced but are an important factor in personal injury cases.
Determining Monetary Amounts for Pain and Suffering
The only method our courts have to compensate victims is through monetary awards for damages. The methods commonly used in Oklahoma and many other states are the following:
- Calculating pain and suffering “Per Diem.” Per diem is the Latin term meaning per day. The Per Diem method for determining pain and suffering damages involves assigning a dollar value to each day an injury victim will likely suffer from pain and emotional anguish. Then that amount is multiplied by the projected number of days it’s anticipated that the victim will continue to suffer based on the severity and nature of the injury.
- Calculating pain and suffering through the Multiplier method. This method uses a fixed formula to determine a monetary amount for pain and suffering by basing it on the victim’s medical bills as a way to determine the severity of the injury and its likely effects. The formula takes the total of the medical bills and multiplies the amount by a number between 1.5 and 5 based on the nature of the injury and the prospects for recovery.
Both methods allow the plaintiff’s Oklahoma City injury attorneys to maximize a claim by presenting evidence of the severity of the injury and the likely duration of suffering before making the calculation and assigning a monetary amount as damages.
Evidence Used to Determine Pain and Suffering Compensation
Most personal injury and car accident injury claims are settled out of court. The insurance companies review the following evidence to determine the monetary damages for pain and suffering, and if both sides can’t agree to a settlement, the courts evaluate this evidence:
- Medical records with treatment recommendations, prescriptions, and prognosis
- Medical bills
- Documentation of normal income amounts and time lost from work
- Photographs of injuries
- Journal notes regarding experiences since the accident
- Written statements from family members describing the impact of the injury on the victim’s life with comparisons to before the accident
While monetary compensation cannot “undo” an injury, it can help to relieve financial concerns and provide the resources to maximize physical and emotional recovery.