In personal injury cases, the most fundamental thing people want who have been injured is for the situation to not have happened. Unfortunately, nobody has a time machine with which to go backward and put things the way they were before the injury occurred. As a result, society has to look for another solution to make up for the problem and act as a proxy for restoring the victim back to the way they were or as close as possible. That comes in the form of damages in the legal world.
What is Possible in Recovery, Financially?
However, how much an injured party can receive in damages depends on a number of factors working together to produce a result. In fact, with the same case and the same circumstances, different parties can produce different results with simple discussions, legal settlements, or filing a lawsuit. The parties, the circumstances, and even the court chosen can make a big difference in the outcome. This is why the help of an experienced personal injury attorney and a trusted law firm matters so much.
Calculating Damages in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania state law, similar to other states, provides for categories of damages where personal injury claims have been confirmed. Parties have to use the legal process and the court to obtain damages for injuries if the parties involved cannot agree on a negotiated outcome, i.e., a settlement. There is an incentive to lean toward a settlement since it produces a result faster for the victim and could reduce the overall cost for the responsible party. That said, it reduced too much, and the victim isn’t provided a recovery commensurate with what was lost and too high, and the responsible party may go bankrupt and not pay at all. So, a balance is essential, as well as limits in state law.
Attorneys also can’t predict what a recovery outcome would be. Instead, based on experience, knowledge of state law and the courts, and the circumstances of the injury, the attorney can make an educated estimate on the strength of a case and how far to push for a likely recovery. That experience and skill can oftentimes make the difference between a viable recovery and nothing at all.
The categories state law does allow recovery for include the following:
- Medical expenses – costs associated with hospital visits, ER room costs, medical follow-up and physical therapy, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, temporary equipment needs, doctors’ fees, and medical transport are all eligible for recovery. This category can be limited if the victim already has health insurance, which covers some of the costs involved. The focus of recovery is on what is paid out of pocket by the victim.
- Ongoing and future medical expenses – where a victim has suffered an injury that results in chronic damage, pain, and limitation, the victim can claim for the cost of medical support, treatment, and related needs for the future to make sure they are taken care of. This is in line with the thinking that none of these long-term care costs would have occurred had it not been for the avoidable injury.
- Lost income – where a victim could have been at work earning pay but cannot because of the injury, lost wages can be recovered. This is calculated on what the victim would have been paid if they had been able to report to their employer and work a shift fine. Where the victim still receives a salary and can’t work for a time, lost income would not count.
- Future income loss – if the injury suffered can be proven to have effectively limited the victim from earning power in the future, that can be recovered as well. The amount depends on how well the victim’s attorney can justify the loss and what would have occurred otherwise. The type of occupation matters significantly here. A professional athlete who can no longer play in a season, for example, would be a serious loss. On the other hand, an office worker who can still work at a desk but must do so in a wheelchair would not automatically be eligible for lost future income. A salesperson who has to travel and meet people, however, may have an argument.
- Mental health impact – Pennsylvania state law recognizes specific mental health impacts that can be associated with an injury. Those include pain & suffering, anguish, loss of consortium with a personal partner, anxiety, discomfort, and emotional distress. The extent of coverage here relies heavily on the seriousness of the injuries and their implications on social function, as well as confirmation by mental health experts on the impact.
- Punitive damages – where an injury was clearly avoidable, and the responsible party was shocked in their disregard for safety, punitive damages can be argued to punish the party financially for what should have been avoided. These are typically sought after when the responsible party is an organization, but they could be pursued where the defendant has sufficient coverage as well.
- Other factors – As noted, the severity of the injury matters, and so does the age of the victim. Younger people will be assumed to be better able to recover than older victims in retirement, for example. The nature of the injury, being permanent or temporary, has an influence as well. Injuries that clearly negate or negatively impact significant life functions will be considered more serious than cosmetic injuries. Additionally, where permanent injuries are visible, it will have an impact, especially in court.
Partnering with The Right Help
One of the best things a person injured in Pennsylvania can do is partner with an experienced personal injury attorney right away. There are so many different details and decisions to keep track of. Someone going through an injury recovery for the first time is bound to miss a lot of the critical issues to watch out for. More often than not, this key decision ends up producing better recoveries case after case versus doing otherwise.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help with both navigating the procedural maze of the court as well as dealing with the merits of the case and making your best argument, whether in settlement negotiations, in front of a judge in hearings, or in front of a jury in a trial. Don’t struggle or try to take on the legal system alone. Insurance companies will definitely rely on their counsel for any claims that go beyond basic offers, and you should be represented just as well.