Understanding Monetary Damages Under Pennsylvania Law
Lawsuits can be long and complicated. Plaintiffs in Pennsylvania have to go through several steps in the legal process before they near the point of recovering damages. However, for injured parties, recovering damages is the most crucial stage. Your Philadelphia personal injury lawyer can help individuals determine what types of damages will be available in a particular case.
There are multiple types of damages available to personal injury plaintiffs. Economic damages, noneconomic damages, and punitive damages may be recovered. Furthermore, additional damages are available in wrongful death lawsuits or survival actions. By understanding the monetary damages available to them, Pennsylvania plaintiffs will know what to expect from their case.
If you were injured because of another person’s negligence in Pennsylvania, get help understanding the monetary damages available to you by calling The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940 for a free case review.
Categories of Monetary Damages in Pennsylvania Personal Injury Cases
There three main types of damages available in personal injury case in Pennsylvania are economic damages, noneconomic damages, and punitive damages. These three categories of damages may cover a wide variety of injuries stemming from personal injury claims.
Economic Damages Under Pennsylvania Law
Economic damages, also called special compensatory damages, are the most straightforward to calculate and seek to provide compensation for expenses created because of an injury. For instance, economic damages will cover all past, current, and future medical bills related to the treatment of an injury in a personal injury case, including the following:
- Ambulance transportation
- Medical testing
- Visits with doctors
- Prescription medication
- Medical equipment such as wheelchairs and crutches
- Hospital bills
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
Furthermore, economic damages in personal injury lawsuits will also cover lost wages suffered because of an injury. When a plaintiff is hurt, they may not be able to work. Depending on how serious an injury is, a plaintiff may not be able to work at all or may only be able to work at a diminished earning capacity.
These types of economic damages for personal injury plaintiffs cover expenses suffered because of an inability to work in the present and in the future. Our Hershey personal injury lawyers can assist you when determining the value of your diminished earning capacity or total loss of work.
A third type of economic damages involves property damages. Pennsylvania plaintiffs whose personal property was damaged because of someone else’s negligence may obtain compensation to repair or replace the damaged property at full market value.
Lastly, some additional expenses incurred because of a plaintiff’s injury may be covered by economic damages. For instance, an individual who lost the ability to drive may be compensated for the cost of alternate transportation. Another example would be an individual who may be compensated for the cost of requiring childcare services after their accident. Our West Chester personal injury lawyers can advise injured parties if any of their damages suffered fall under this category.
Noneconomic Damages Under Pennsylvania Law
General compensatory damages are also referred to as non-economic damages. These are damages that may not be as easy to calculate from a monetary perspective. However, these types of damages are as important to victims as any other.
These damages may not show up on bank records and many of these damages cannot be replaced with money. However, money helps make up for the victim’s pain and suffering. The following are some examples of non-economic damages available to personal injury plaintiffs under Pennsylvania law:
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Permanent disfigurement
Calculating pain and suffering is not easy. It can be difficult to quantify psychological harm and emotional distress. For instance, victims of traumatic brain injuries may incur a great deal of suffering through a loss of enjoyment of life. These types of injuries can be hard to account for yet severely alter a victim’s daily life and personality.
The physical and emotional pain caused by an accident can leave a lasting toll on a victim or the victim’s family. General compensatory damages are crucial to an injured party’s recovery. Our experienced, Abington personal injury lawyers will fight to ensure our clients’ non-economic damages are properly accounted for.
Punitive Damages Under Pennsylvania Law
Punitive damages are designed to punish a guilty party and discourage similar actions. These damages place a large financial burden on a defendant and are often granted by multiplying the other damages. This means that if a person is awarded $50,000 in personal damages, the court may choose to add on three times this amount in punitive damages (often called “treble damages”).
However, punitive damages are not awarded very often in Pennsylvania. The discretion to decide if punitive damages are appropriate is left with the courts. Specifically, Pennsylvania laws allow for punitive damages when a defendant’s actions are so willful and malicious that they show no regard for the safety of others. The following are some examples of situations where punitive damages might be awarded in a Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit:”
- Dog-owners that willfully let their dogs attack people
- Pharmaceutical companies that knowingly distribute bad drugs
- Doctors who acted intentionally and recklessly in medical malpractice cases
The elements required to recover punitive damages are sometimes hard to prove. Consult with your Norristown personal injury lawyer to determine whether punitive damages are available in your case.
Monetary Damages Available in Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, wrongful death lawsuits seek to compensate family members for losses they will suffer because the decedent is no longer in their lives. A wrongful death can cause severe emotional pain and financial distress a victim’s family. Accordingly, the following are types of damages available to plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Financial support the deceased would have been expected to contribute to the family
- Work and services the deceased would have contributed to the home, including childcare
- Loss of the deceased’s guidance, companionship, and comfort
- Loss of love and affection for the spouse of the victim
Only parents, children, or a spouse can recover damages in a Pennsylvania wrongful death claim. A Strousburg personal injury lawyer can help plaintiffs accurately calculate what will be available to them in a potential wrongful death lawsuit.
Monetary Damages Available in Survival Actions in Pennsylvania
A survival action in Pennsylvania allows a deceased person’s family to bring suit on their behalf for personal injury damages that would have been available to the decedent if they were still alive. You may not claim duplicate damages, so if damages were recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit then they may not be sought in a survival action. Survival action damages are calculated from the time of the victim’s injury until the time of death. The following are some examples of damages available in survival actions in Pennsylvania.
- Medical expenses related to the injury
- Pain and suffering caused by an injury
- Lost wages suffered from the time of injury to the time of death
- Emotional distress caused by the injury
Unlike a wrongful death lawsuit, damages available in survival actions are akin to damages available in a standard personal injury claim. Since the deceased person can no longer bring a personal injury lawsuit on their own behalf, a lawsuit can be brought by another party on their behalf.
A survival action can be filed by a deceased person’s personal representative, spouse, child, or parent. A personal representative is someone appointed by the court to administer the estate of someone who passed away. Our Doylestown personal injury lawyers can help when determining the validity of a potential survival action.
Damage Caps for Personal Injury Cases in Pennsylvania
Some states will impose damage caps on the amount of monetary damages that are recoverable in certain cases. By restricting how much a plaintiff can recover from a defendant, damage caps serve to help the economy by preventing entities such as governments and hospitals from going bankrupt. Pennsylvania only imposes damage caps in the following scenarios:
Personal Injury Cases Against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Statute § 8553 places a $250,000 limit on damages recoverable against a government agency. Accordingly, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or entities such as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation can only be held liable for amounts up to $250,000.
Furthermore, Pennsylvania places a $500,000 limit on damages recoverable in a personal injury claim against a local government entity. Therefore, entities such as the City of Philadelphia or a school district can only be held liable for amounts up to $500,000.
Lastly, punitive damages are not recoverable against the Commonwealth or local/municipal governments. Plaintiffs should consult with their Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys for help understanding whether damage caps apply to their case.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Pennsylvania
Medical malpractice cases are another type of personal injury case with strict caps. Plaintiffs in Pennsylvania cannot recover punitive damages beyond 200% of the compensatory damages awarded under 42 Pa. C.S. §§ 8528 and 8553.
These damage caps on medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania do not apply to anything other than punitive damages. Our Bucks County personal injury lawyers can offer further clarification surrounding medical malpractice damage caps in Pennsylvania.
Limited Tort Insurance vs. Full Tort Insurance in Pennsylvania Car Accident Cases
Pennsylvania uses a “choice no-fault” insurance system, which has drivers choose between ”limited tort” and “full tort” insurance. Drivers with limited tort insurance might be blocked from filing lawsuits and cannot recover monetary damages for pain and suffering, whereas drivers with full tort insurance have the option of filing a lawsuit to recover full compensation after a car accident. In other words, choosing limited tort insurance could limit the amount of monetary damages available to your after a personal injury.
At a minimum, Pennsylvania drivers are required to have liability insurance that covers up to $15,000 in damages per individual, and $30,000 to all individuals who are injured in a motor vehicle accident. Additionally, Pennsylvania law requires drivers to obtain $5,000 of first party medical benefits.
First party medical benefits cover the policyholder’s medical bills that are related to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. However, these are coverage floors, not upper limits. Moreover, these amounts do not always cover the full extent of victims’ injuries after an accident. The type of car insurance Pennsylvania drivers purchase will determine what monetary damages are available under their own policy.
When purchasing auto insurance, drivers in Pennsylvania must decide between purchasing “limited tort” insurance or “full tort” insurance. Limited tort insurance will only cover economic damages caused stemming from accidents caused by policyholders. Limited tort insurance restricts drivers from pursuing lawsuits against the at-fault driver and requires them to use their own insurance for coverage. However, full tort coverage covers drivers for damages stemming from pain and suffering. The small amount of money you save on your monthly premium with limited tort could be minimal compared to the cost of a serious car accident.
Drivers in Pennsylvania have important decisions to make when choosing their car insurance policy. These decisions can affect the amount of monetary damages available to them after a car accident. Contact a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer for help determining which insurance policy to choose and for help understanding how that choice can affect your ability to recover monetary damages after a car accident.
Time Limits to Recover Monetary Damages in Pennsylvania Personal Injury Cases
The statute of limitations dictates how long you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania. If you wait too long to file a claim, you will lose the opportunity to recover compensation.
In Pennsylvania, plaintiffs typically have two years from the time of their injury to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. However, exceptions to the time limit may exist in certain circumstances. For example, special rules pertain to cases involving minors or in medical malpractice cases where an injury went undiscovered for some time. If you were injured because of another person’s negligence, our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers can help you understand how the statute of limitations applies to your case. You should contact our attorneys as soon as possible because waiting to file a claim could cause you to miss out on monetary damages.
If You Need Help Understanding the Monetary Damages Available to You in Pennsylvania, Our Lawyers Can Help
If you need help recovering monetary damages in your personal injury lawsuit, seek guidance from the experienced Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm. Call us today at (215) 709-6940 for a free case review.