Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Damages

Pennsylvania laws provide that when a person suffers injuries because of another party’s negligence, she retains the right to file a claim against the responsible party to seek recovery for personal injury damages. Similarly, the law provides that the surviving spouse, children, or parents of a victim who died because of another’s wrongdoing have the right to seek recovery for wrongful death damages.

The array of recoverable damages in injury and wrongful death claims is vast. Below, we discuss the broad categories of compensable damages in Pennsylvania. For those unfamiliar with these types of actions, it is easy to overlook opportunities for compensation. Victims will want to have an established personal injury attorney assist them with creating a detailed list of losses, and with tallying and substantiating damages.

What types of economic damages can I recover from an injury claim?

Economic, or special, damages are those meant to compensate the victim for the financial losses she has suffered (and those that she will suffer in the future) as a result of the accident. These types of damages are relatively easy to quantify with things such as receipts, bills, pay stubs, etc.

Any tangible financial losses and out-of-pocket expenses, such as the following, are potentially reimbursable on an injury claim.

  • Medical bills – emergency services, hospital bills, diagnostics, check-ups, surgeries, prescriptions, other treatments, medical devices and prosthesis, over-the-counter treatments, mobility aides, and in-home nursing.
  • Rehabilitation – physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic care, etc.
  • Loss of income – lost wages, loss of earning capacity, loss of promotion, lost benefits, lost pay bonuses, lost sick and vacation day compensation, lost clients and business income, etc.
  • Hired help – the cost of hiring household services when you cannot perform them yourself, e.g., yard work, assistance with errands and childcare, and home repairs.
  • Property damage – primarily just applicable to auto accidents, you can recover the cost of repairs to your vehicle and other property.

What types of non-economic damages can I recover?

Non-economic, human, or general, damages, are also compensable in a personal injury claim. These are the harder-to-quantify, intangible losses you have suffered as a result of your injury. You may hear people refer to non-economic damages as “pain and suffering,” but the breadth of emotional, mental, and psychological harms that are compensable is far more expansive than just pain and suffering.

Below are some of the general damages that you may be able to recover.

  • Chronic pain
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional disorders
  • Emotional distress
  • Effect of injury on relationships
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Loss of consortium

Recovery of these damages typically depends on the severity of the injuries and the extent to which they have and will affect an individual’s life. For instance, a broken arm is not likely to justify much in pain and suffering damages. But multiple fractures, paralysis, severed limb, and brain damage might.

What types of damages are compensable in wrongful death cases?

When someone dies as a result of negligence, the personal representative of the estate may be able to file a wrongful death claim and recover damages on behalf of the beneficiaries.

The primary type of damages a family can recover are the compensatory damages meant to reimburse the family for their financial losses related to the loss of their loved one. The family can also seek recovery for non-economic damages for intangible, emotional, and psychological losses, as well.

Below are a few some examples of damages that may be a part of a wrongful death claim.

  • Hospital and medical bills the deceased accrued prior to death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The contributions (income, food, shelter, medical care, education, clothing, gifts, recreation, etc.), the deceased would have made to his family from the time of the accident to the end of his life expectancy
  • Lost services, comfort, and society
  • Provisions the deceased would have rendered to the family, e.g., household services
  • Loss of guidance, counsel, moral upbringing (for the surviving children)

The damage award is dependent upon many factors, one of which includes the beneficiaries’ ages, especially in the case of a child. For example, damages for loss of guidance and support may be greater for a two-year-old child than a 16-year-old child; this may be the case because the 16-year-old has already received more of these benefits than the two-year-old child has. Your lawyer will be able to calculate a fair value for your particular case.

What types of damages are compensable in survival actions?

In some cases, the personal representative might also be able to file a survival action against the party liable for the deceased’s accident. In Pennsylvania, all personal injury suits that are started “shall survive the death of the plaintiff,” under Pennsylvania Code Section 8302.

What happens when the victim dies while pursuing a personal injury claim? When a person who was pursuing a lawsuit for personal injury damages dies, the personal representative of the deceased can continue the lawsuit in the form of a survival action.

A survival action and a wrongful death lawsuit are two different things. In the former, courts award damages to the deceased’s estate for the harm she suffered. In the latter, courts award damages for harm that the deceased’s spouse/children suffered.

The potential compensable damages in a survival action are essentially the same as those in a personal injury claim. Courts award compensation for the economic and non-economic losses the deceased experienced from the date the injury occurred until the time of death.

Courts handle awarding damages in a survival action very differently than in a wrongful death case. It is vital to ensure the personal representative knows how to handle each action correctly.

How do I maximize my damage award?

The best way to ensure that you receive the maximize amount possible from your personal injury or wrongful death settlement is to have a skilled attorney oversee your case. For an attorney in Pennsylvania that handles all types of injury and wrongful death claims, contact Cordisco & Saile and request a free consultation today: 215-642-2335.