What is considered “pain and suffering” in Pennsylvania?
If you were injured in an accident due to the negligence of another, you deserve compensation for the damages you suffered through. You will likely receive compensation for medical bills or lost wages, but the law also recognizes the pain and suffering that often accompanies an accident. Thus, you may be able to recover from physical or mental anguish as well. The Reiff Law Firm explains what is considered “pain and suffering” in Pennsylvania, and how it is measured and proven.
Economic vs. Noneconomic Damages
Damages are divided into two categories, those that are economic and those that are non-economic. Economic damages comprise of measurable damages such as medical expenses, vehicle damages, or lost wages from missing work that can be calculated easily. Noneconomic damages, or general damages, are intangible losses that cannot be assigned a monetary value with ease, such as pain and suffering. For this reason, pain and suffering is entirely subjective and will depend on the specific circumstances of each case, as two people can have the same injury but may experience different levels of pain. Additionally, one person’s injury may have an effect on their life that it wouldn’t on another, such as if their injury led to emotional trauma that manifested in depression or anxiety. It is important to note that unlike some states, Pennsylvania does not have a limit on the amount of money you can recover for a personal injury claim against a private individual.
Examples of Pain and Suffering
There are a plethora of injuries that can fall under the category of “pain and suffering”. If your original injury caused you pain or discomfort, you may be able to recover from pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is typically awarded to a plaintiff who is experiencing aches or pains in the body, scarring, depression or other emotional trauma, temporary or permanent limitations on activities, potential shortening of life, future pain and suffering, humiliation and embarrassment.
For example, if you were in a severe accident that left you immobilized in a wheelchair, you most likely will be limited in the activities you will be able to perform, including working. This could reduce your pleasure in your activities and life, and you may even experience depression, anxiety, or other mental anguish as a result of your injuries. Additionally, an injury that leads to permanent disfigurement could lead to emotional pain regarding the plaintiff’s appearance and social interaction, causing humiliation and embarrassment. If this is the case, the jury will take that into account when awarding damages.
Measuring Pain and Suffering Damages
As stated earlier, pain and suffering is mostly subjective, although it is important to note that some stakeholders, including insurance companies, will resort to set formulas to calculate pain and suffering damages. The first formula adds up the plaintiff’s medical bills and lost wages and multiplies the total by a number that will vary depending on how severely the victim was injured. The second formula establishes a per diem amount of pain and suffering for each day from the injury until full recovery. There are occasions when the formulas reflect the degree of pain and suffering reasonably, but oftentimes evidence and analysis done by a lawyer will determine how much is awarded.
More often, a jury will determine the amount of pain and suffering damages by considering the victim’s age, the type of injury, and how the injury affects the victim both emotionally and physically. Though pain and suffering is mostly subjective, damages will typically increase with the severity and the permanence of an injury. New Jersey personal injury Lawyers will typically make objective comparisons between the daily activities of the plaintiff before their injury and after their injury to show the extent of pain and suffering. The jury is then tasked with weighing the wide variety of evidence presented in court, and can also decide to deny or award fewer pain and suffering damages.
Although there are no limitations to the award of pain and suffering damages in a lawsuit against private individuals, there are exceptions. The first is if you were involved in an automobile accident with a “limited tort” insurance policy. Unlike “full tort” insurance, limited tort does not entitle you to compensation unless you can prove you suffered a “serious injury” as defined by Pennsylvania law. Additionally, the government and their subdivisions have sovereign immunity, meaning they are mostly immune from liability unless an exception applies.
Proving Pain and suffering
In order to recover anything for pain and suffering, you must be able to prove that there is real trauma in connected to the injury. Thus, it is important to provide as much objective evidence in court as possible. An important piece of evidence will be your medical records, detailing a diagnosis from a doctor as well as a complete description of the victim’s physical pain. It will also be important to show past and present documentation of medication, whether it be medication for physical pain or emotional trauma. Along these lines, it could be beneficial to receive testimony from a medical expert, whether it be a doctor that can verify the degree of physical pain, or a mental health expert who may have treated the victim for mental or emotional anguish following their injury. It may also be helpful to have a friend or family member testify on your behalf about the difference in your physical or emotional state before and after the accident. Photographs or video evidence depicting the injury and how the injury looks over time will be an essential piece of evidence. Sometimes, before and after pictures will be utilized, such as of a victim playing sports before the injury versus hospitalized after the injury, and may impact the amount the jury decides to award. Finally, your own testimony of pain, as well as journal entries that may describe the pain in detail, will be extremely influential on the jury.
The most important part of this process is to preserve as much evidence as possible that will invoke an empathic response in the jury, and show that there was real and sustained pain and suffering that resulted from your injuries. You want as strong a claim as possible, so the first thing you should do is seek immediate medical care for both physical and emotional trauma so that a physician or therapist could testify about your recovery from day one. It will also be important to try to heal as much as you can to avoid any argument that you worsened your injuries. Equally important is avoiding mistakes that may undermine your claim. This means that you should definitely avoid posting about your injury on social media and even try to avoid social media altogether.
Contact Our Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you were injured in an accident that was not your fault, your injuries might be devastating to both your physical and mental health. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law allows you to recover for both economic and non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. If you or a loved one was injured, our experienced attorneys may be able to evaluate how much your case might be worth. Call our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at (215) 709-6940 for a free consultation.