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Updated by Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC on Jun 15, 2018
Headline for Damages Available in a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawsuit
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Damages Available in a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawsuit

In Pennsylvania, as in other states, if you have suffered injuries due to the fault of another, you may be entitled to recover damages as compensation for your various losses. The damages to which you’re entitled vary significantly depending on the particular circumstances of your case, however. Consider the following categories of damages that may be available in your Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit. This is a non-exhaustive list.


Lost Wages

Damages in the wage loss context include damages for both past and future wage loss.

Past wage loss damages are the losses you already suffered as a direct result of having been unable to work due to your various injuries. For example, suppose that you have suffered serious injuries in a car accident that have rendered you incapable of returning to work for a period of three months. You could claim damages for those three months of lost wages. In proving past wage loss, however, you’ll have to present sufficient documentary evidence, such as a consistent record of pay stubs.

Future wage loss damages are the losses that you will suffer at a later date due to being unable to work. For example, if you’re still disabled by your injuries during litigation, then you may still have projected damages for future wage loss (since you cannot return to work yet). Future wage loss is more uncertain, naturally, but with the aid of an experienced personal injury attorney, you’ll have an opportunity to work with a range of experts who will testify as to your condition, ability to work, and ability to recover from your injuries.


Loss of Future Earning Capacity

Loss of future earning capacity is — like wage loss — another subcategory of economic damages. Loss of future earning capacity is a critical issue in cases involving injuries of such severity that they alter one’s career prospects. In such cases, you (the plaintiff) are entitled to recover damages for the “reduction” in your lifetime earning capacity.


Medical Expenses

Medical expenses, like wage loss, may involve both a past and future component. Depending on the circumstances of your case, Pennsylvania law may entitle you to damages for all medical expenses sustained due to the defendant’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts.

Not all medical expenses are legitimate and recoverable, however. The defendant can only be held liable for “reasonably necessary” medical expenses. What is reasonably necessary is a factual question that will change based on the particularities of your case. For example, an expensive, alternative form of rehabilitative treatment may be deemed unnecessary if a cheaper, standard form of treatment was recommended by your physicians (and would have led to similar medical results).


Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is a form of non-economic damages and is therefore inherently subjective. As such, these damages can be somewhat more challenging to accurately calculate (compared to objective economic damages such as wage loss and medical expenses).

Pain and suffering accounts for both physical pain and suffering, as well as mental anguish. The monetary value of one’s “pain and suffering” is likely to be a source of conflict in your case, if the damages are significant — you’ll have to demonstrate that the damages are reasonably related to your actual subjective suffering (likely with the aid of expert testimony).


Loss of Enjoyment of Life

In Pennsylvania, injured plaintiffs may be entitled to recover for loss of enjoyment of life (LEL) damages, which account for the particular losses incurred by the victim relating to their ability to engage in pleasurable activities, such as their hobbies, work, family and social gatherings, and other recreational matters. LEL damages are great for “filling the gaps,” so to speak. Some injuries may have extensive negative effects on their life that are not accounted for by other damage categories. For example, if an injury prevents you from engaging in any sporting activities (and you are a former athlete whose recreational activities heavily emphasized sports and other physically-demanding tasks), then LEL damages would likely be recoverable for such losses.


Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are infrequently awarded, in both Pennsylvania and other states. Unlike other types of damages, punitive damages are not intended to compensate the injured plaintiff for their losses — instead, they are meant to punish the defendant for engaging in particularly egregious, reckless, or malicious conduct. In the personal injury context, punitive damages are generally not awarded unless the facts clearly show that the defendant recklessly disregarded the safety of others, to an extreme degree. Street racing, for example, may be sufficiently reckless to give rise to punitive damage liability.