Pain & Suffering Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania personal injury law, an injured party has the right to seek compensation for any and all damages which reasonably flow from the negligent or wrongful actions of another. The two types of claims can be broken down into economic and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are strictly financial losses, such as medical bills, lost wages and out of pocket expenses. In a nutshell, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit in PA can ask to be compensated for any reasonably necessary financial loss incurred as a result of the incident, as unusual as they may be.
For instance, the owner of an exotic, rare pet suffers a major hand injury in a serious car accident. The injury prevents the owner from providing necessary care for the pet. So, the owner has to hire someone to take over the daily care duties until the hand is healed. The cost incurred totals $500, or $20 per day, for 25 days. So long as the loss of the inability to use the hand is directly attributed to the accident, the plaintiff can ask to be compensated for the $500. This is in addition to any medical bills, lost wages, etc.
Pain & Suffering – A Look at Pennsylvania Law
When it comes to pain and suffering, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania doesn’t ask for a set amount, per se. If and when a case goes to trial, the plaintiff’s injury attorney won’t ask the jury to award X for pain and suffering. That’s because under Pennsylvania injury law, pain and suffering damages aren’t calculated in the same way that economic damages are.
General Factors When Considering Noneconomic Damages in PA
The following factors will be considered when determining the dollar amount of an injured party’s noneconomic damages in a personal injury lawsuit in PA:
- the plaintiff’s age,
- the physical injuries,
- whether the injuries are temporary/permanent,
- whether the injuries affected the plaintiff’s ability to perform basic activities of daily living,
- the medical treatment,
- the plaintiff’s physical pain and mental anguish,
- the plaintiff’s health and physical condition prior to the accident, and
- the severity of any disfigurement.
Under Pennsylvania law, a jury in a personal injury lawsuit will receive the following instruction about noneconomic losses.
The plaintiff has made a claim for a damage award for past and for future noneconomic loss. There are four items that make up a damage award for noneconomic loss, both past and future: (1) pain and suffering; (2) embarrassment and humiliation; (3) loss of ability to enjoy the pleasures of life; and (4) disfigurement.
Let’s take a look at each of these 4 factors.
Pain & Suffering
Pain and suffering is any physical pain, mental anguish, discomfort, inconvenience and distress endured by the plaintiff as a result of the injury. The injured party has a right to be fairly and adequately compensated for all of the pain and suffering caused by the accident, including any pain and suffering that may occur in the future.
Embarrassment & Humiliation
If the injured party suffered any embarrassment or humiliation as a result of the accident or injuries, he or she has a right to receive compensation. Not every plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit will suffer embarrassment or humiliation. Usually, the nature of the case and the injuries determine whether there will be a claim for the plaintiff’s embarrassment or humiliation. A plaintiff who suffered sexual dysfunction or was unable to go to the bathroom unaided would have a valid claim for embarrassment or humiliation. Likewise, the plaintiff in a rape or child molestation case would also have such a claim.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
The third factor is loss of enjoyment of life. Did the plaintiff’s injuries prevent him or her from enjoying life, and if so, to what extent? This includes any effects on family life, work life and hobbies. Also, were the plaintiff’s relationships negatively affected by the injuries? If the plaintiff was married, did the accident and injuries cause any problems in the relationship? In very serious injury cases, it’s not uncommon for the uninjured spouse to feel overwhelmed and distressed. This can lead to fighting, and in the worst cases, the parties may separate or decide to divorce.
For example, in a work accident case, a roof worker falls from a 3rd story building. A severe head injury occurs, and the long term effects are devastating. The worker’s personality completely changes. The once funny, carefree and independent worker is now withdrawn, sullen and subject to outbursts of anger. After several months, his spouse asks for a separation. Ultimately, the parties divorce. Here, there’s no question that the brain injury negatively impacted the relationship. The injured worker’s ability to enjoy life has been severely affected.
The last factor is disfigurement, which is not relevant in every case. An injured party who suffers a physical disfigurement, such as facial disfigurement or a noticeable scar from surgery necessitated by the injuries, may receive compensation.
Personal Injury Lawyers in Pennsylvania
Our personal injury law firm is based on Philadelphia and handles a wide variety of accident and injury cases including work injuries, crime victim injuries, auto accidents and more. Contact our personal injury lawyers for a free consultation. 215.399.9255
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