In early March, a Pennsylvania appeals court upheld a man’s personal injury award for injuries he sustained in a car crash. However, that same court denied the man’s damages he was seeking for loss of enjoyment of life.
The accident occurred in 2014. A government-operated bus rear-ended the vehicle the man was driving, causing him to sustain injuries to his neck, back, arm, and leg. Initially, the man was awarded $50,000 but he appealed the decision because he lost the enjoyment of playing baseball with his son, who died two years later in an unrelated incident. The man pleaded with the appeals court that during his son’s final months, they were unable to enjoy activities they once did together due to the accident. The court of appeals found there were no further damages to award.
It’s a story that has some questioning how loss of enjoyment of life works in Pennsylvania personal injury cases. To answer that, as to answer any question in a personal injury case, one must look at what the law says on the matter.
Pennsylvania Law on Non-Economic Damages
Damages for loss of enjoyment of life include pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliations, and disfigurement. Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania does not simply include loss of enjoyment of life into the category of pain and suffering. Each is its own separate item.
Non-economic damages are those that do not have an actual dollar value. They are typically calculated by multiplying the economic damages in a case, or those with a dollar value, by a certain number. The number they are multiplied by will depend on the extent of injuries and the nature of the accident.
Damages for loss of enjoyment of life are meant to compensate accident victims for the inability to enjoy life’s pleasures from the day of the accident, and any loss of enjoyment in the future. Under this definition, it’s reasonable for the man in the story to assume he deserved compensation for not being able to play ball with this son. As the story shows though, this is not always the case.
Proving Loss of Enjoyment of Life
A person’s enjoyment of life is very personal. As such, when attempting to prove it in court, this aspect of a personal injury case relies mainly on the plaintiff’s own testimony. In some cases, the spouse of the plaintiff may also testify to the loss of enjoyment of life. During the testimony, the plaintiff must simply tell the court of the activities they enjoyed before the accident, and how the accident prevented them from continuing to enjoy those same activities.
As this recent case has shown though, even when the testimony is compelling, it does not necessarily mean a court will award this type of non-economic damages.
When Loss of Enjoyment of Life Does Not Apply
Any damages sought in a personal injury lawsuit must apply directly to the accident that caused the injury. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court made its decision based on the fact that the child’s death had nothing to do with the accident.
This is an element of proof required in all personal injury cases. The plaintiff, or person filing the lawsuit, must prove first that another person was negligent. They must then prove that negligence caused the accident. The courts agreed both of these elements of proof had been met. Unfortunately, the third element of proof is that the accident caused the injuries. While it is sad that the child passed away, the appeals court found that the man was applying for damages for his own regret, which had nothing to do with the accident resulting in injury.
The recent case is just one that shows the complexity of personal injury lawsuits. While it is sometimes clear to a party seeking damages that they deserve compensation, the courts do not always find the same way.
Want Full Compensation for Your Injuries? Speak to a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer
Many think that a personal injury lawsuit is a relatively easy thing to pursue. A person was injured, another person was responsible, and so the injured party should receive compensation. Pennsylvania law though, is intricate and complex, with language that is sometimes confusing. For this reason, anyone injured must speak to a Pennsylvania personal injury attorney that can provide the necessary guidance on these matters.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin at (215) 486-0123. We will review the facts of your case, and fully explain how Pennsylvania law applies to it. If you’re entitled to compensation, we will represent you every step of the way to help ensure you get it. Call us today or fill out our online form to learn more.