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How do Wisconsin courts calculate damages for pain and suffering?

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2024 | Personal Injury

In personal injury claims, compensating the claimant for physical and emotional distress is an important aspect of the case. These are noneconomic, general damages that people often refer to as “pain and suffering.”

These intangible general damages are challenging to quantify because they do not have a direct monetary value. Still, the courts, insurers, and legal professionals apply certain standards to calculate a fair sum.

The meaning of pain and suffering

Pain and suffering include various forms of distress an individual experiences following an injury. This can encompass physical pain, emotional distress, humiliation, and mental anguish.

For example, if someone suffers from a broken leg due to an accident, the physical pain from the injury and the anxiety about future mobility issues fall under the category of pain and suffering. Other common examples include chronic pain from long-term injuries, emotional trauma stemming from a life-altering accident, and loss of enjoyment in daily activities that the injured person previously enjoyed.

The per diem and multiplier methods

Courts use different methods to calculate pain and suffering damages. The two most common methods are the per diem method and the multiplier method.

The per diem method assigns a daily rate to the pain and suffering the claimant endures. This rate gets multiplied by the number of days the injured person has experienced suffering. For example, if the assigned daily rate is $100 and the person has suffered for 200 days, the total calculation would be $20,000.

The multiplier method involves adding all economic damages, such as medical bills and lost wages. The court or insurance firm then multiplies this total by a number between 1.5 and 5. The multiplier depends on the severity and longevity of the pain and suffering.

In this situation, if economic damages amount to $50,000 and the multiplier is 3, the pain and suffering damages would be $150,000. This method considers the broader impact on the individual’s life but requires selecting an appropriate multiplier.

Wisconsin’s caps on noneconomic damages

Injured parties must bear in mind that Wisconsin has specific caps for noneconomic damages in certain cases. For example, the state limits noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases to $750,000. Claims against local and state entities also have limits. However, for other personal injury cases against private citizens, there are no state-imposed caps.

Understanding the calculations for pain and suffering damages is important for those navigating the aftermath of an injury. While the process involves multiple factors and methods, courts strive to ensure fair compensation that reflects the genuine impact on a claimant’s life.