There are three main kinds of recoverable damages in personal injury lawsuits in Pennsylvania:
- General damages
- Special damages
- Punitive damages
The first two categories of loss are referred to as “compensatory damages.” Their purpose is to compensate the victim for a loss. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish a person who causes an injury.
In this post, we’ll provide a brief definition of each category of damages. We’ll also share what sorts of expenses and claims are included under each heading. Read on!
General damages, also referred to as non-economic damages, include those categories of loss that are difficult to quantify in monetary terms. They include things like:
- Loss of the enjoyment of previously enjoyed activities
- Loss of companionship as a result of injuries that affect a spousal relationship
- Permanent physical disfigurement
- Physical pain
- Emotional pain
All of these categories have a subjective component in common. For example, the emotional pain suffered as a result of a depressive episode brought on by an accident is unique to you. So is your experience of your loss of enjoyment in physical activities like hiking or skiing after a fall.
Due to their subjectivity, it is difficult (but not impossible) to calculate general damages. They are typically valued based on the type and severity of the loss with the personal characteristics of the victim in mind. People who suffer catastrophic injuries that massively impact their wellbeing and life will typically receive much more than those who have suffered less serious injuries with minimal disruption of their day-to-day lives.
Special damages, also called economic damages, are the most straightforward of the different kinds of loss suffered by accident victims. Special damages are monetary losses suffered as a result of another’s actions. They include:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Lost wages and earnings
- Future diminished earning capacity
- Property damage
Special damages are almost always easier to quantify than general or punitive damages, as there is a specific number that attaches to each category of loss.
That doesn’t mean that there are no disputes about the quantum or existence of special damages though. Without competent legal help, it can be difficult to establish the connection between an accident and a loss of money. It can also be difficult to show just how large an economic loss was.
For that reason, effective legal representation is crucial when trying to make a claim for damages after an accident or injury.
There are other expenses you might incur as a result of an accident. For example, if you’re required to hire household help because your injuries make it impossible to keep up with housework, you may be entitled to compensation. Similarly, any incidental costs you incur as a result of having to seek medical care (transportation, lodging, childcare, etc.) might be compensable.
These are a highly specific category of damages with a distinct purpose. Rather than compensate the injured person, these damages are intended to punish the person who committed the tortious act.
In order to qualify to receive punitive damages, the person who caused your injuries must have behaved in a particularly egregious way. Very often, the sorts of acts that result in punitive damages are both intentional and malicious. Phrases like “wanton disregard” and “evil motive” characterize the case law surrounding punitive damages.
As a rule, punitive damages are rarely awarded. That doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for them. It just means that the sorts of conduct that give rise to punitive damages are unusual and much less common than the conduct that allows for the award of compensatory damages.
Regardless of the type of damages you may be entitled to receive, you can be certain that the best way to ensure that justice is done in your case is to hire effective and competent legal counsel. Personal injury law in Pennsylvania is just too complex to navigate on your own without legal training.
While your case may seem straightforward initially, the law is such that it can quickly become a challenge to get even the most basic compensation for serious injuries without the assistance of an experienced attorney.
We strongly suggest you reach out to one of the lawyers here at Marcus & Mack. We focus on getting justice done for injured clients in situations like yours. Call or email us today.