The Pennsylvania Personal Injury Damages Guide (2023)

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If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident, such as an injury on the job or injured in a car accident, you or your family members may be entitled to compensation called personal injury damages.  In this blog post, we’ll delve into what personal injury damages are in a personal injury lawsuit.

Basics of Personal Injury Compensation 

Types of Personal Injury Damages

There are two types of personal injury damages an injured person may be entitled to compensation for:

  1. economic damages, and;
  2. non-economic damages.

Economic losses include anything with a fixed monetary value, such as your paycheck and medical bills. Non-economic damages are more subjective and have to do with your pain and suffering

Non-Economic Losses

woman stressed from injury woman stressed from injury - SMT LegalNon-economic losses are part of what you suffer from a personal injury. It is is an assessment of the negative impact an accident or injury has on a person’s life. Non-economic damages can include compensation for physical pain, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life, or loss of consortium in the case of wrongful death.

The basis for receiving this type of compensation is how severely your life is affected by the injuries. You may not have significant physical injuries, but if they cause you to develop depression or other conditions, they are considered significant. Non-economic damages you can seek reimbursement for include:

  • Amputation
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Disfigurement or scarring
  • Mental anguish
  • Isolation and loss of society
  • Loss of care and guidance for your family members
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of personal or professional reputation
  • PTSD
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disability

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Determining Non-economic Damages

Determining non-economic damages is an inexact science based on similar past situations and the individual experience of the person injured.

Non-economic damages are determined by considering four types of non-economic damage as well as some specific individual characteristics of the person seeking damages.

In claims for non-economic damages, Pennsylvania jury instructions direct jurors to consider the impact of the following four types of non-economic loss:

  1. Pain and suffering
  2. Embarrassment and humiliation
  3. Loss of enjoyment of life
  4. Disfigurement

Factors that are to be considered when determining the amount of compensation for each type of non-economic damage are:

  • Age of the person injured
  • Severity of the injury
  • Whether injuries are temporary or permanent
  • How injuries affect daily living activities
  • Physical pain and mental anguish experienced or to be experienced
  • Health and physical condition prior to injury
  • Nature of disfigurement and the impact it may have

medical records medical records - SMT LegalEconomic Damages Explained

Economic damages are based on known or calculable amounts. Economic damage is the additional financial expense that must be incurred because of an accident or injury. Economic damages can include financial losses such as medical expenses, physical therapy bills, medical bills, lost earnings, lost earning capacity, property damage, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

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Punitive Damages in Pennsylvania

When the negligence or actions of the person at fault are especially egregious, you can ask the court to award punitive damages. In some cases, the judge will elect to award them even if you do not make the request. These damages are meant to cause severe punishment to the defendant and serve as a warning to others.

Punitive damages are an add-on and can only be considered if compensatory damages have been awarded.

Factors that the judge will take into account when deciding how to award compensatory and punitive damages include:

  • The severity of your injuries and their impact on your life
  • Whether the defendant was committing a crime
  • Whether the defendant was drinking or abusing an illegal substance
  • Whether a property owner knowingly ignored a potential hazard
  • Whether a product manufacturer was aware of a defect that could cause harm

The purpose of punitive damages is to punish a wrongdoer and discourage them (and others) from similar wrongdoing. But the effect is to provide additional compensation to the person wronged. In Pennsylvania, punitive damages can be awarded when a person’s conduct demonstrates an evil motive or reckless indifference to the potential for injury to others.

Punitive damages are appropriate when a wrongdoer both:

  • Knew of the potential danger others were being exposed to
  • Made a conscious choice to continue to put others at risk

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Cap on Punitive Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

For most types of personal injury cases, there is no upper limit on the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded. However, for injury claims based on medical malpractice, any imposed award of punitive damages is generally limited to an amount no greater than 200 percent of the compensatory damages.

Punitive damages is generally limited to an amount no greater than 200 percent of the compensatory damages.

In addition, the law requires that 25 percent of the punitive damages awarded in a medical malpractice case be paid to the state’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Fund (40 Pa. Stat. § 1303.505).

Damages Limited in Claims against the Commonwealth

Sovereign immunity means a government is not liable for its wrongdoing. The federal and many state governments have waived absolute immunity for personal injury claims in certain situations but still limit their liability to specific dollar amounts.

In Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth and its agencies have limited their liability in personal injury cases to $250,000 per claimant for all damages and $1,000,000 per injury-causing accident or event. The municipalities and local governments can be liable for up to $500,000 per claimant.

No Sovereign Immunity in Sexual Abuse Cases

The most recent exception to sovereign immunity became law in 2019 in an attempt to provide relief for young victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings – such as schools. For claims made under the new immunity exception, the cap on damages has been completely eliminated.

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Proving Your Damages in a Personal Injury Case

SMT legal attorneys team SMT-banner_1 - SMT LegalDespite being entitled to receive compensation for damages, Pennsylvania personal injury claim process still requires evidence that supports economic damage claims and justifies non-economic damage claims. Medical expenses are not automatically compensated. Medical treatment received for claimed injuries must be both reasonable and necessary. Opinions from medical experts may be required to establish the appropriateness of medical expenses incurred.

The non-economic damages for personal injuries are not obvious and need to be explained and corroborated. Witnesses can provide information about activities and characteristics before and after an injury to assist in establishing the non-economic impact on a person’s life. Keeping a written account of how an injury is affecting your daily living can also provide useful information for determining an appropriate amount of compensation.

If you or a family member were injured due to the negligence of another, contact the Pittsburgh Personal Injury Lawyers at SMT Legal for a free consultation. Contact our law firm today.