How are Damages Calculated in a Personal Injury Case in Pennsylvania?A personal injury case is designed to compensate an individual for an injury suffered at the hands of someone else. Many different types of lawsuits can constitute personal injury: medical malpractice, slip and fall, dog bites, and car accident claims are all examples of personal injury cases.
Types of Personal Injury Damages
Depending on the nature of your injuries and the type of personal injury case you are bringing, you may be entitled to numerous different types of damages. For example, a personal injury lawsuit verdict could include:
- Medical bills for any treatment necessitated from the accident or injury
- Lost wages for work missed as a result of the injury
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress or damages
- Property damage
- Wrongful death, including funeral expenses, loss of future earning capacity and loss of companionship
- Punitive damages
General Limitations on Damages
The Pennsylvania constitution stipulates that, "in no other cases [except compensation paid to state employees for injury] shall the General Assembly limit the amount to be recovered for injuries resulting in death, or for injuries to persons or property"
This means that you are entitled to the full amount of damages a jury deems appropriate. Unlike some states- such as California, which limits non-compensatory damages for medical malpractice- this means that there is no limit on the amount you can be awarded by a jury. If your injuries are severe, and the jury deems the behavior of the person who caused your injury to be egregious, then you can recover a large damage settlement.
A punitive damage award, however, may be overturned or lowered if it greatly exceeds the amount of actual damages suffered. For example, punitive damage awards that exceed 200 percent of the actual damages may be viewed as suspect.
Special Rules for Medical Malpractice
Although your damages aren't limited in a medical malpractice case, if punitive damages are awarded, 25 percent must be paid to a state insurance fund, called the MCARE fund. In addition, payments for medical expenses for a victim of medical malpractice must be paid over time if they exceed $100,000, and that the obligation to pay such damages ceases if the patient dies.
Pennsylvania law also states that medical expenses and lost wages that were covered by public or private benefits (other than life insurance, pension, profit sharing, or social security benefits) cannot be recovered.
You should be aware of two other major restrictions regarding personal injury law in Pennsylvania:
- Pennsylvania is a choice no fault state. If you opted into the no fault system when you bought your car insurance, you cannot sue for damages resulting from a car accident unless those damages are for "serious" injuries. Otherwise, you are limited to recovering your medical bills and lost wages from your own insurer.
- Pennsylvania has a worker's compensation program. If you are a covered employee who is injured at work, you cannot recover damages for personal injury from your employer through a tort suit. Instead, you must make a worker's compensation claim.
How Are Damages Calculated?
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, the jury will calculate your damages by considering the actual damages you suffered, as well as the nature of your injuries. More serious injuries are likely to lead to larger damages, as the jury may also award you for pain and suffering and emotional distress due to such injuries.
Punitive damages are appropriate only where the defendant's behavior was willful, wanton, egregiously reckless or intentional.
If you have been involved in an accident in PA and someone else is at fault, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can provide detailed information on the strength of your case and on what your damage award is likely to be.
For more in information on injury accidents in Pennsylvania, click on the following articles: