Determining Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

Personal Injury Damages

January 31, 2023 by Anthony Riccio

A serious road accident in Charlestown left two drivers fighting for their lives after sustaining life-threatening injuries that will likely alter their quality of life. Since Massachusetts is a no-fault state, both drivers may be eligible for personal injury compensation. However, the settlement size can be different. Each claimant must provide evidence proving economic and non-economic damage to receive compensation. The justice system uses presented proof to calculate and determine damages in personal injury cases

How to Calculate Economic Damages

A claimant is awarded economic damages as compensation for the expenses and financial loss they incurred due to a personal injury. They represent the out-of-pocket expenses a personal injury victim uses to treat and recover from their injury. 

Medical expenses and lost wages are the most significant economic damage and may cover future medical expenses and lost income if necessary. Economic damages are typically provable and rely on tangible evidence such as medical bills, invoices, receipts, pay slips, and other financial records. 

Calculating Medical Expense

Medical expenses fall into three categories—past, present, and future. Personal injury attorneys use receipts and invoices for treatment and procedure to show the cost incurred. Future medical expenses are more challenging to compute. 

Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 233 § 79G allows personal injury victims to claim such expenses under economic damage. Personal injury lawyers in Massachusetts use various factors, including prescription medication, surgery needed, physical therapy, diagnostic testing, and more, to calculate future medical costs. 

Getting the settlement amount right is essential since the court only allows a claimant one chance to claim future medical expenses.   

Calculating Lost Wages

Lost wages also fall into three categories—past, current, and future wages. Past and present wage losses are easy to calculate. A claimant’s tax records and pay stubs easily show the pay rate and the total hours worked in a given month. Establishing future lost wages is a bit more complex. 

Calculating future lost wages entails analyzing the claimant’s age, job description, industry, and whether the injuries will hinder eligibility for promotions. 

Claimants in Massachusetts can also pursue lost future earning capacity following a personal injury. Unlike lost wages compensation, this settlement covers any lost income potential. It covers the victim’s inability to work after sustaining a severe injury. 

Proving and calculating lost future earnings requires input from economic experts and medical professionals. It takes a professional to demonstrate how an injury affects a victim’s ability to work and future income. 

How to Calculate Non-economic Damages

Also known as pain and suffering, non-economic damages compensate victims in a personal injury case for the lowered quality of life after sustaining an injury. Such damages are less concrete and are subjectively evaluated during the proceedings. 

Non-economic damages may include emotional anguish, pain, reputational damage, humiliation, loss of enjoyment, or aggravating existing injuries. Although subjective, non-economic damages often carry tremendous losses following a catastrophic injury. Victims often pursue non-economic damage to redress the loss of joy of living. 

People with severe injuries often suffer pain when performing simple everyday tasks such as dressing, playing with their kids, cooking dinner, or even taking a walk. Sometimes, a plaintiff may not enjoy some of their favorite activities, such as exercising, swimming, or dancing.      

Calculating Pain and Suffering

Massachusetts uses one of two methods—Multiplier or Per Diem—to calculate pain and suffering during a personal injury proceeding. 

The Multiplier Method

Typically, the multiplier method uses a number between 1.5 and 5 to determine the severity of a claimant’s level of damage. The multiplier can fall outside this range, but only when the pain and suffering is ultra-low or super-high. However, 1.5 is usually the floor for personal injury cases with discernable pain and suffering. 

Once the multiplier is determined, it’s applied to a claimant’s total economic damage. For instance, a personal injury victim incurred $10,000 in medical bills and $7,000 in lost wages. Using a multiplier of 2, a Massachusetts court would award $17,000 in economic damages and $34,000 for non-economic damages. 

While the multiplier method may seem arbitrary, it’s based on various critical factors. Personal injury lawyers consider the severity of injuries, the level of pain and suffering, injury duration, their impact on quality of life, and among other factors, to choose a multiplier. 

The Per Diem Method

With this method, the court system uses the average daily wages to calculate the per diem value of a claimant’s pain and suffering. The process entails prorating the monthly income into a daily pay rate. The court’s premise is that a claimant’s pain and suffering can be as challenging as their daily workload. Consequently, the per diem method pays personal injury victims a daily rate equal to their daily income for pain and suffering. 

However, the court may adjust the per diem value after considering injury severity and other crucial factors used in the Multiplier Method. The per diem rate is adjusted based on an actual figure instead of an income projection. 

The projected duration of the pain and suffering determines the number of days used in the per diem multiplication. The court estimates the claimant’s expected lifespan to determine the number of days when hearing personal injury cases with permanent trauma.

The per diem method is quite effective when pursuing past pain and suffering because it’s easy to establish how it lasted. However, it can be highly arbitrary since there’s no correlation between a claimant’s income and the severity of their injuries. Getting adequate pain and suffering through the per diem method can be challenging. There’s no telling how the pain and suffering will last or any future damages that may result from it. 

The Role of an Attorney

Personal Injury Attorney

Determining damages in a personal injury claim is a complex process. There’s no definitive way to place a price tag on a claimant’s injury, pain, and suffering. Personal injury lawyers use their experience handling similar cases to help a claimant get adequate compensation. They often work with plaintiffs to determine the worth of their injuries by calculating lost income, property damage, and medical expenses. 

Seasoned personal injury attorneys meet with their clients to discuss their nature of pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, and lost opportunities. 

When necessary, lawyers work with medical and employment specialists to prove the nature and extent of a claimant’s injury. They use their legal knowledge, skills, and experience to get their clients adequate economic and non-economic damages. Sound legal representation may allow a plaintiff to secure an out-of-court settlement and avoid a lengthy court battle. 


Hiring a Massachusetts personal injury attorney can help ensure a great outcome when pursuing compensation. Personal injury lawyers are familiar with determining personal injury damages in Massachusetts. They can ensure every base is covered to help a claimant get the financial compensation they deserve. Call 617-404-8878 or contact an accident injury attorney as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation.