Compensation for Accident & Injuries
Page last reviewed and updated: July 15, 2020
In Pennsylvania, accident cases are some of the most common personal injury lawsuits and are often filed against both public businesses and private individuals. Under PA liability laws, anyone or any business can be held liable for negligence that leads to a fall accident like a trip and fall or slip and fall accident. This even applies to government entities, like local cities or townships, albeit with some limitations and exceptions.
In the article below, our accident lawyer discusses different types of financial compensation claims and where compensation actually comes from (i.e., the role of insurance).
Where Does Financial Compensation Come From?
This is an important question, one that most people don’t even think to ask. In most cases involving fall accidents, the defendant (person or business) will have some sort of insurance coverage that applies to the situation. Businesses like restaurants, bars and retail stores often have commercial or general liability policies. Private homeowners or landlord often have similar types of coverage, including homeowners or rental coverage. Therefore, the insurance coverage becomes the primary source of compensation.
Here’s an example: a Philadelphia resident is walking down the sidewalk when he trips over a pipe sticking out from the edge of the walkway, where the sidewalk meets the storefront wall. The store has a commercial insurance policy that covers accidents and other losses that occur on the property. This policy provides up to $1,000,000 per incident. In this case, the injured pedestrian could make a claim under the policy, but that would require filing a lawsuit against the business. If the business is found liable for the accident (i.e., committed negligence that led to the accident), the insurance company would be bound to pay for the damages caused, up to the amount of coverage.
If there’s no insurance coverage, the chances of getting financially compensated decrease pretty drastically. A homeowner, landowner or business which does not purchase an insurance policy to protect their property usually doesn’t have the financial means to cover a monetary judgement.
Claims for Compensation
In a personal injury lawsuit, the injured person (Plaintiff) bears the burden of proving their damages. If you prove your damages (and also prove liability or negligence), then you may be able to get financially compensated.
Typically, there are two types of claims for financial compensation in a fall accident lawsuit: financial or economic losses and pain and suffering.
Financial losses include medical bills, lost wages, and out of pocket expenses that are directly related to the accident and resulting injuries. Examples of compensable out of pocket expenses include travel, parking, hiring home health care, incidental expenses such as medical supplies, etc.
Proving these kinds of losses is pretty straightforward. Sufficient proof includes copies of medical records and bills, wage statements from work and receipts.
Pain & Suffering
Under Pennsylvania law, the Plaintiff in a personal injury matter has the right to be compensated for the pain and suffering caused by an accident, injuries and medical treatment. Pain and suffering is any mental or emotional anguish or trauma. The more severe the injuries, the greater the pain and suffering. In addition to pain and suffering that has already occurred, the Plaintiff has a right to be compensated for any future pain and suffering. This is typically reserved for serious injury cases or cases involving disfigurement or scarring.
There’s no method courts use when awarding pain and suffering. It’s entirely dependent on the extent of the injuries and medical treatment and how these things affected the Plaintiff’s ability to lead their normal and usual life.
Loss of Consortium Claims
What about the spouse of an injured Plaintiff? Oftentimes, in serious injury cases, the spouse of the injured party suffers as well. Major injuries and resulting medical treatment can put severe strain on a marital relationship. In Pennsylvania, spouses may make a special derivative claim, known as a loss of consortium claim. This claim compensates the spouse for the damage caused to the marital relationship. This type of claim is pretty similar to a pain and suffering claim. There’s no documentation like a bill or invoice that can substantiate it. Although, couples therapy and associated costs can be included in this claim.
Chances of Trial Versus Settlement
It’s important to note that the majority of fall accident cases will settle before ever getting to trial. This is especially true in Philadelphia County where courts encourage settlement due to backlogs of cases. Courts in Philadelphia require formal settlement negotiations and will even conduct settlement negotiations the day of trial. As a result, nine out of ten cases will result in a settlement.