How is Pain and Suffering Determined in Pennsylvania Car Accidents?
When you’re involved in a car accident, your injuries may be severe. Luckily, Pennsylvania law allows injured parties to recover compensation not only for medical expenses and surgeries, but for the physical pain and mental suffering itself. Unlike some states, Pennsylvania puts no limit on the amount of money you can collect for a personal injury lawsuit against a private individual.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to substantial compensation for your pain and suffering. For a free consultation about your personal injury case, contact the car accident attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm.
Car Accident Damages in Pennsylvania
In a car accident, or any personal injury case, there are broad categories of things you can recover for. These can be broken down into two categories: “compensatory damages” (or “economic damages”) and “noneconomic damages.”
Compensatory damages are meant to compensate you for financial harms the injury caused. This covers things like medical expenses to treat injuries, including medical bills, imaging (like X-Rays and MRIs), and rehabilitation. It also includes any finances you missed or had to lose because of your injury. For instance, if you were out of work because of your injuries, compensatory damages reimburse you for lost wages. Additionally, paying for things like medical transportation, or even wheelchairs and wheelchair ramps can be reimbursed.
If you lost a loved one to a car accident, these damages can pay for expenses related to that. For instance, funeral and burial costs can be compensated as well as any lost inheritances or investments you lose because your loved one was killed.
Noneconomic damages are a broader category of damages that cover things that you cannot put a price tag on. These are intangible damages – things you would never see on a budget or in bank records. Many of these things cannot be replaced with money, but the money works to help make up for the harm.
Pain and suffering is one of the largest examples of noneconomic damages. This tries to pay you back for the physical pain and mental suffering. Pain and suffering damages can even include emotional trauma that results from the physical injury or emotional trauma in its own right.
The loss of a loved one can never be reimbursed with money, but is included in noneconomic damages. The grief of losing a loved one, their lost companionship, their lost counsel, and the emotional pain surrounding their death can be compensated under noneconomic damages.
Noneconomic damages may also include “punitive” or “exemplary” damages, which courts award to injured parties to punish or “make an example of” the defendant. These are usually awarded against large corporations or defendants who repeatedly cause injuries. These damages are rare and require especially bad action, but may be available against especially bad actors like those involved in negligent truck accidents.
Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
Since pain and suffering is a noneconomic injury, there is no financial value to be compensated. This means that deciding how much an injury is worth has no real guidelines. In general, the worse an injury, the more compensation victims usually receive. Often, the “going rate” for an injury is decided by what attorneys and insurance companies are willing to advise their clients to accept.
It is important to remember that pain and suffering has two separate and distinct parts: physical pain and mental suffering. Because some injuries are incredibly painful, they may reap high pain awards – but the suffering is often where awards grow very high. For instance, traumatic brain injuries occur in many car accidents. Because the brain itself does not have many nerve endings to feel pain, a case of brain injury might not be very painful – but the mental suffering is extremely high. These injuries can completely alter a person’s life, personality, and abilities to think and feel emotion. This kind of suffering is worth extremely high compensation, even if it is not very painful. In other cases, significantly less severe injuries like whiplash might cause neck pain for the rest of your life, causing nearly constant pain, discomfort, and suffering. Even though these injuries are not very severe, they may be worth surprisingly high compensation.
The value of your pain and suffering injury is ultimately determined by a jury, not a judge. Your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer can argue to the jury regarding how much you deserve in compensation, but the jury makes the final call. Because Pennsylvania has no cap on noneconomic damages, you can receive as much money as the jury is willing to award for your pain and suffering.
Philadelphia Car Accident Injury Attorney
The lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm have decades of experience handling personal injury and car accident cases in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, talk to an attorney today about what your case might be worth. Our attorneys offer free consultations on new cases, and you never pay any legal fees until you win your case. Call (215) 246-9000 today to talk about your case.