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Purpose of review: This report summarizes the increasing financial resources required to deal with personal injury tort cases and medical malpractice. The largest single component in personal injury torts is noneconomic damages, which encompasses 'pain and suffering' and punitive damage, the latter of which comprises only a small percentage. Overall, noneconomic damages account for 24% of the greater than US$250 billion spent annually on personal injury torts.

Recent findings: A pain and suffering disability index has been developed that quantifies the loss of life's value attributable to personal injury. Based upon time-tradeoff utility analysis, the value loss is predicated upon the values of people who have experienced the same degree of disability or injury as the plaintiff, only outside the courtroom environs. It is believed that the pain and suffering disability index will readily identify frivolous, personal injury torts, decrease the number of frivolous, personal injury torts, markedly decrease the variance of noneconomic tort settlements, facilitate the earlier settlement of personal injury tort cases, and decrease the proportion of personal injury tort cases progressing to jury trial.

Summary: The pain and suffering disability index is a novel instrument that quantifies the 'pain and suffering' associated with a personal injury tort according to the values of patients who have experienced a similar injury outside the courtroom environs.

(C) 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.