What Are Non-Economic Damages in Pennsylvania?

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    Accidents in Pennsylvania often leave victims reeling from the physical, financial, and emotional impact. On top of compensation for your economic losses, you may be able to recover non-economic damages when you take your case to court.

    Non-economic damages are any damages you have incurred due to negligence that are emotional, not financial. This includes things like pain and suffering or reduced quality of life. In general, non-economic damages are not capped in Pennsylvania, meaning juries can often award compensation how they see fit. That said, there are certain factors juries are advised to consider when awarding non-economic damages, such as the age of the plaintiff and whether or not they have experienced emotional distress. Because juries award non-economic damages, they are often unavailable in settlements, meaning you might have to go to trial to recover them in your injury claim.

    To schedule a confidential and free case assessment with our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers, call The Reiff Law Firm now at (215) 709-6940.

    How Does Pennsylvania Define Non-Economic Damages?

    The term non-economic damages refers to a certain type of compensatory damages that are available to injury victims in Pennsylvania. While economic damages are a victim’s financial losses, non-economic damages are a victim’s emotional damages.

    Non-economic damages are the non-financial losses victims incur because of injuries. For example, suppose you broke your leg in a recent car accident. In that case, you might have to deal with the emotional turmoil that comes with a broken bone on top of the financial expenses that are necessary to treat your injury, such as a cast, surgery, or physical therapy.

    That is to say, Pennsylvania recognizes that damages from accidents are not just financial. This means that you can recover compensation for any pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of another party’s negligence, provided you can prove such damages exist in your claim.

    Are Non-Economic Damages Capped in Pennsylvania?

    Generally speaking, Pennsylvania does not usually cap victims’ recoveries of non-economic damages. That might differ depending on who the defendant is in your case.

    For most personal injury claims, such as those involving auto accidents, slip and falls, and other similar accidents, there is no limit on non-financial damages. However, in cases against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or local governments, there are damage caps to be aware of. For example, in claims against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, total compensation, meaning both economic and non-economic damages, is limited to $250,000 per plaintiff and $1,000,000 per incident, according to 42 Pa.C.S. § 8528(b).

    Even in medical malpractice claims, there are no non-economic damages caps for victims in Pennsylvania. That said, there are limits on recovery of punitive damages in such claims. For example, punitive damages are limited to 200% of compensatory damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. Compensatory damages are your total awarded economic and non-economic damages combined.

    Proving Non-Economic Damages in a Pennsylvania Injury Claim

    Proving that you are entitled to non-economic damages can be a challenging task. To do so, you will need to submit proof of your pain and suffering.

    Since emotional distress does not come with a price tag, we must show that you have experienced it using different evidence than we would use to prove economic damages. For example, speaking with a therapist can allow you to work through your struggles and result in our lawyers having access to a mental health care professional who is capable of providing testimony in support of your recovery.

    Similarly, providing a personal statement detailing your pain and suffering can be compelling to a jury in Pennsylvania. Such testimony can be strengthened with medical evidence of the severity of your injuries. Medical experts can also testify to the scope of your expected medical treatment, which can give a jury a clearer understanding of your long-term pain and suffering when awarding damages.

    How Are Non-Economic Damages Awarded in Pennsylvania?

    When awarding non-economic damages in Pennsylvania, juries are instructed to consider several elements, such as whether or not the victim has experienced pain and suffering and how long they are expected to continue to do so following the conclusion of the claim.

    According to 231 Pa.C.S. § 223.3, the four elements that make up a damage award for non-economic losses are that the victim has experienced pain and suffering, embarrassment and harassment, loss of ability to enjoy life, and disfigurement. After these items are established, the jury will consider them in detail. The jury is also advised to consider the plaintiff’s age at the time of injury, the severity of their injury, the length and type of medical treatment they will need, as well as many other factors.

    All of these elements come together to inform a jury’s award of non-economic damages in Pennsylvania. The jury will also consider damage caps if any are applicable in your case.

    Are Non-Economic Damages Available in Settlements in Pennsylvania?

    For the most part, recovering sufficient non-economic damages in a settlement is unlikely. That is because non-economic damages are often only awarded by juries and not offered by negligent parties.

    Settlements that take place outside of a court setting require concessions from both parties, not just defendants. So, while the defendant might be willing to compensate you for your economic damages, they might be unwilling to compensate you for your pain and suffering. While engaging in settlement negotiations for a short period to gauge the situation and the defendant’s case, allowing them to carry on for too long might mean you are without compensation for an unacceptable amount of time.

    Because of that, our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers may advise you to take your case to court. When juries hear injury claims, victims might be more likely to claim damages for their non-economic losses.

    Call Our Pennsylvania Attorneys About Your Injury Claim Today

    The Montgomery County personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm can assess your case for free when you call us today at (215) 709-6940.

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