How is Pain and Suffering Determined in Pennsylvania Car Accidents?
Your injuries may be severe when you’re involved in a car accident. Luckily, Pennsylvania law allows injured parties to recover compensation not only for medical expenses and surgeries but also for physical pain and mental suffering.
Damages in car accident cases include economic losses like medical bills and non-economic losses like pain and suffering. Depending on your case, insurance companies might employ numerous methods to calculate compensation. Fault plays a significant role in damages and compensation calculations, and hiring an attorney can help you maximize your compensation and prove your damages are real. You must be mindful of the deadline to file your case, which is usually about 2 years after the accident. Unlike some states, Pennsylvania puts no limit on the amount of money you can collect for a personal injury lawsuit against a private individual.
You may be entitled to substantial compensation for your pain and suffering if you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident. For a free review of your personal injury case, call our Pennsylvania car accident attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940.
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 the financial harm 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, compensatory damages reimburse you for lost wages if you were out of work because of your injuries. Additionally, paying for medical treatment and transportation, or even wheelchairs and wheelchair ramps, can be reimbursed.
If you lose 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.
Non-economic damages are a broader category of damages covering things 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.
How Do Insurance Companies Calculate Damages in Pennsylvania?
Damages can be tricky to calculate. Some damages are easy and come with predetermined values or costs, while others are more subjective and open to interpretation. Insurance companies employ various methods to determine non-economic damages like pain and suffering. Our Pennsylvania car accident lawyers can help you argue for the most compensation possible.
The multiplier method is common in insurance claims and lawsuits when assessing non-economic damages for pain and suffering. This method is rooted in your overall economic damages, so economic losses must be accurately tallied up before non-economic losses are determined.
Generally, when using the multiplier method, the insurance company will assign a multiplier figure, usually between 1 and 5, to your non-economic losses, including pain and suffering. This figure is then used to multiply your economic damages.
For example, suppose your total economic damages are $10,000. Next, suppose the insurance company assigns your case a multiplier figure of 3. In that case, your total economic damages would be multiplied by 3, arriving at a non-economic damages calculation of $30,000.
Determining the multiplier figure is crucial and might significantly affect your total damages for pain and suffering. Generally, the more intense or significant your non-economic damages are, the greater the multiplier figure might be. Suppose your pain and suffering were very intense and took a serious toll on multiple facets of your life. In that case, our Pennsylvania car accident lawyers can push for a greater multiplier closer to 5, the maximum.
The pay-per-day-determination method, sometimes called the per diem method, assigns a dollar value to each day you experience pain and suffering. In short, the longer you experience pain and suffering, the greater your damages should be. Much like the multiplier method, the value assigned to each day is up for debate, and our Pennsylvania car accident lawyers can help you argue for a greater value assigned to each day of your pain and suffering.
The pay-per-day method may be a good option if your pain and suffering have persisted for a long time. For example, suppose the insurance company assigns a $100 value to each day, and you were suffering for 5 months, or about 150 days. In that case, your total damages for pain and suffering would be $15,000.
The dollar value assigned to each day depends on how significantly the pain and suffering from the car accident affect your life. The more intense and painful your experiences after the accident, the higher the value of each day should be.
Fault at Play
Fault plays a huge role in how insurance companies assess damages for pain and suffering. Generally, insurance companies will assess fault according to state laws. Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative fault rule, according to 42 Pa.C.S. § 7102(a). Under this rule, a plaintiff is not barred from recovering damages if they are partially at fault for an accident. However, the plaintiff’s damages might be reduced in proportion to their share of the blame. The plaintiff is barred from recovering anything if their share of the blame exceeds that of the defendant, meaning their proportion of fault cannot exceed 50%.
The insurance company might use this system to reduce your damages if they believe you are partially responsible for the accident or your injuries. They might also use your alleged share of the blame to reduce the multiplier figure or dollar value of each day, depending on which method is used to determine non-economic damages.
Can I Increase My Car Accident Compensation by Hiring a Lawyer?
Although hiring an attorney to represent you in a car accident case is not required by law, it is still a very good idea. The legal system and insurance claims procedures are notoriously complex, and small mistakes might carry big consequences. Hiring an attorney familiar with the ins and outs of car accident cases might help you get more compensation than you might get on your own.
Our Pennsylvania car accident attorneys can help you maximize potential compensation for economic and non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. By adhering to complicated procedural requirements and making effective legal arguments, our lawyers can help you get the most compensation possible.
How Can I Prove Pain and Suffering After a Car Accident?
Proving pain and suffering is also problematic, as concrete evidence of such damages can be hard to come by. Pain and suffering are subjective experiences that each plaintiff might experience differently, so getting hard proof is not easy.
Our Pennsylvania cart accident lawyers can help you start by evaluating the nature of your pain and suffering. Did you endure significant bodily pain from your injuries? Were you emotionally traumatized by the accident? Did the accident cause any damage to your reputation? Knowing how you experienced pain and suffering is an important first step to proving them.
We can help you prove your pain and suffering by presenting things like medical records regarding injuries, records from mental health professionals about your mental state, and testimony from people who know you. This information can shed light on how deeply you experienced pain and suffering and how it impacted your daily life.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Filing a Car Accident Injury Claim in Pennsylvania?
You have to file your case by a certain deadline. Otherwise, you might lose your right to do so. The statute of limitation for car accidents in Pennsylvania can be found under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524(2) and imposed a 2-year deadline.
The statute of limitations usually begins to run starting the date of the accident, although there might be exceptions to this rule. For example, if you were a minor when the accident occurred, the statute of limitations begins to run once you turn 18. Our Pennsylvania car accident attorneys can help you file your case before the deadline and figure out if you can have the statute tolled for more time.
Are there Limits to How Much Compensation I Can receive After a Car Accident in Pennsylvania?
There might or might not be limits on your compensation, depending on whom you are suing for damages. There are generally no caps or limits in many cases where the defendant is a private party. However, if you are suing a government entity, there might be limitations on how much compensation you can recover. Our Pennsylvania car accident lawyers can help you fight for the maximum compensation allowable.
If your case is against the State of Pennsylvania, your damages cannot exceed an aggregate amount of $500,000, according to 42 Pa.C.S. § 8553(b). A similar law, 42 Pa.C.S. 8528(b), applies to cases against local government entities and imposes a limit of $250,000 for any plaintiff and an aggregate amount of $1,000,000.
Calculating Damages After a Car Accident
Since pain and suffering is a noneconomic injury, there is no financial value to be compensated. This means deciding how much an injury is worth has no real guidelines. Generally, the worse an injury, the more compensation victims usually receive. The “going rate” for an injury is often decided by what attorneys and insurance companies are willing to advise their clients to accept.
It is important to remember that pain and suffering have two separate parts: physical and mental. 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.
A jury, not a judge, ultimately determines the value of your pain and suffering injury. Your Montgomery County car accident lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer can argue to the jury regarding how much compensation you deserve, 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.
Speak with Our Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers to Discuss Damages in Your Case
Our Pennsylvania car accident 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. Call (215) 709-6940 for a free case evaluation.
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