In Pennsylvania, then three types of personal injury damages are often grouped into these categories: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. The total value of these three groups is typically the maximum compensation you may receive for your claim.
As personal injury lawyers, we are often asked questions about damages. “Damages” are the losses you suffered in a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, or another type of personal injury incident. Each type of personal injury damage values different kinds of loss you may experience after an injury, which we can explain down below.
Economic Damages Are Direct, Measurable Expenses
The first category of damages is often referred to as “economic damages.” Some people may also call these damages “special” damages. This refers to a loss or expense that is directly related to your accident or injuries. These damages are the easiest to quantify because they are tied to an actual, measurable loss. For example, medical expenses often make up a large portion of economic damages. You can add up all of your medical bills and show these losses.
Economic damages vary widely from one case to the next as they are tied to the actual losses the personal injury claimant suffered. Common types of economic damages include:
- The cost to repair or replace your vehicle or other personal property
- Transportation costs to and from doctor visits
- Ambulance transportation costs
- Hospital bills
- Emergency room bills
- Costs for ongoing medical care
- Prescription medication costs
- Costs for assistive devices like a cane or crutches
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
It is advised to have a lawyer review your claim so that you can be sure relevant damages are included in your demand package. Our lawyers deal with these types of claims on a routine basis and know what types of damages may be involved in your claim. We may review your claim so that your damages are accounted for and substantiated.
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Noneconomic Damages Account for Immeasurable Loss
The next category of damages is “noneconomic damages.” These are sometimes referred to as “general” damages. They are not as easy to quantify because they are not directly tied to a certain loss. According to Pennsylvania Code 231 §223.3, these damages may include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Discomfort, inconvenience, and distress
- Embarrassment and humiliation
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Juries are expected to “fairly and adequately” award these damages when they are present in a claim and substantiated with proof. Jurors are instructed to consider several factors to determine a fair amount of compensation for the plaintiff, including:
- The plaintiff’s age
- The severity of the injuries
- How long the injuries are expected to last
- How the injuries may impact the plaintiff’s activities of daily living
- How long medical treatment will last and the nature of this treatment
- How long and severe the physical pain and mental anguish have lasted and are likely to last
- The plaintiff’s health and physical condition before the accident
- The nature of disfigurement and how it may impact the plaintiff
Punitive Damages May Serve as Punishment Toward Negligence
The final main category of damages in Pennsylvania personal injury claims is punitive damages. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victim. Instead, they are meant to serve as a punishment in cases involving particularly egregious behavior and as a deterrent for similar conduct in the future.
According to Pennsylvania case law Phillips v. Cricket Lighters, punitive damages are reserved only for cases involving “intentional, willful, wanton or reckless conduct.” They can only be awarded only when the plaintiff has established the defendant’s conduct was so “outrageous” to demonstrate this type of conduct. Therefore, to be awarded punitive damages, you must show that the conduct was not merely negligent or even grossly negligent. Instead, you must be able to show the defendant’s conduct demonstrated disregard for your health and safety and that of others.
A Lawyer May Help You Calculate Damages
To accurately calculate your damages, a personal injury lawyer may collect evidence that shows the extent of your damages and how the accident has affected your life. A lawyer may gather evidence such as:
- Medical bills and records
- Employment records that show how much time you lost because of your injuries
- Pain journal entries
- Repair estimates
- Receipts for out-of-pocket expenses
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How a Pittsburgh Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Now that we have answered the question about what the three types of personal injury damages are, we hope that you have a better understanding of this aspect of a personal injury claim. Our Pittsburgh lawyers at Berger and Green will help gather information to support your claim and your demand for fair compensation. We can also answer any other questions you have about the personal injury claim process. Call us at (412) 661-1400 to get started.