When a person is harmed from an accident and someone is found to be negligent, that person has the option of filing a personal injury case. If the case is successful, the guilty party is forced to pay lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. However, when the responsible party acts in an extremely reckless manner or causes intentional harm, an innocent victim may be entitled to receive additional punitive damages.
Unfortunately, these types of damages are not awarded often. To pursue the option, it is best to consult with a qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer. At Shrager & Sachs, we are committed to helping Philadelphia residents and everyone in Pennsylvania get the legal representation they need to move forward with their lives.
Today, we’re looking at how often punitive damages are typically awarded in Pennsylvania when filing a personal injury claim.
What are Punitive Damages?
On one hand, paying for medical expenses and similar costs are considered compensatory. In other words, they are made to help a plaintiff get back to health and to a regular life. In Pennsylvania, filing an injury lawsuit allows a person to recover damages that may bring him or her back to the same financial position before the accident. In many instances, compensatory damages are calculated according to mounting bills and other tangible means.
On the other hand, punitive damages are made to punish the guilty party so that other people are deterred from acting in the same manner. They are meant to bring a large financial burden onto a defendant. They work on a multiplying factor. For instance, if a person is awarded $100,000, the court may decide to award four times this amount in punitive damages. This means that the individual receives $400,000 on top of the original $100,000.
When Will a Pennsylvania Court Award Punitive Damages?
In Pennsylvania, punitive damages are not awarded on a regular basis. The courts have discretion to determine if the situation warrants this type of award. In fact, the state’s laws allow punitive damages when a defendant’s actions are willful and malicious and show no regard for the safety of others. For example, if you were hurt in a car accident that was caused by a person who was not driving recklessly, you may not be able to sue for punitive damages. Your case will only deal with compensatory damages. However, if the guilty party causes an accident by speeding, driving under the influence, or texting while driving, this individual may be liable for punitive damages.
Before a court awards punitive damages, the PA courts consider a few things. In all instances, a plaintiff must meet a high bar of proof. A case must go to trial, and the plaintiff must be awarded other kinds of damages. The key to recovering punitive damages is that it must be shown that the defendant acted purposefully and maliciously. Negligence alone does not warrant a punitive damage award.
Cases Where Punitive Damages May Be Awarded
- Dog Bite Cases. In instances where a negligent dog owner willfully lets his or her dog attack an innocent person, punitive damages may be awarded.
- Pharmaceutical Liability Cases. When a pharmaceutical manufacturer is aware of dangers link to its products, and the company continues to distribute and sell those products without adequate warnings, punitive damages may be awarded. This is been seen with drugs and products like Xarelto and transvaginal mesh.
- Medical Malpractice Cases. When a doctor’s conduct brings harm to a patient, and it is proved to be intentional and reckless, punitive damages may be awarded. For instance, if a surgeon operates on a patient while drunk or operates on the wrong body part, punitive damages may be collected.
Does Pennsylvania Place Caps on Punitive Damages?
While many other states place limits on monetary amounts of certain damages in accident cases, Pennsylvania only places caps on cases that are filed against the Commonwealth. According to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes 8528 and 8553, there is a $250,000 limit on personal injury charges against a government agency. Also, there is a $500,000 limit on damages in cases that are filed against local agencies. In medical malpractice cases, punitive damages cannot exceed 200 percent of the compensatory damages. Also, 25 percent of the awarded punitive damages must be paid to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction Error Fund.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident that was caused by the negligence of someone else, it is vital to act fast. Working with an experienced lawyer greatly improves your chances of receiving a fair compensatory award. To learn how we can help, get in touch with Shrager & Sachs today.