While many states have caps, or limits, on how much compensation a victim can cover in a personal injury lawsuit, this is not the case in Pennsylvania. Most personal injury recoveries are not limited—unless the suit was filed against the Commonwealth.
Pennsylvania’s damage cap on personal injury lawsuits filed against the government comes from the notion of sovereign immunity: the idea that the Commonwealth cannot be sued by the people living in it. Why? Because the money paid out by the Commonwealth would technically come from taxpayers. Instead of prohibiting people from suing the Commonwealth altogether, damage caps limit the amount that a victim can recover for an accident or injury caused by government negligence or wrongdoing. Pennsylvania has waived sovereign immunity for many types of personal injury matters.
The damage cap on Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuits may apply to:
- Motor vehicle accidents caused by Commonwealth employees
- Acts of medical malpractice by employees of Commonwealth facilities or institutions
- Acts of malpractice by Commonwealth doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals
- Hazards in buildings or on highways and sidewalks owned or leased by the Commonwealth
- Potholes or sinkholes on highways under the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction
- Injuries caused by animals that are in possession or control of Commonwealth agencies
- Injuries or damage caused by acts or activities of the Pennsylvania National Guard
- Sexual abuse committed by Commonwealth employees or because of negligent acts or omissions by the Commonwealth
Damage Cap on Personal Injury Cases Against the Commonwealth
There is a $250,000 limit on personal injury damages recoverable in a lawsuit against a government agency (such as the Commonwealth or the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation), and a $500,000 limit on damages in a case against local agencies or parties (such as the City of Philadelphia or a school district). These limits are outlined in Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 8528 and § 8553.
A person who has been injured may be able to seek compensation for medical treatment, ongoing care or therapy, lost earnings, loss of potential earnings, emotional trauma, property damage, and more. Pennsylvania damage caps do not apply to the specific types of compensation available, only the total amount. Therefore, a victim could seek financial compensation for pain and suffering and medical care—if that amount does not exceed $250,000 or $500,000 (depending on who the case is filed against). Punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant, are not recoverable in cases against the Commonwealth or local agencies.
Medical Malpractice Damage Caps in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania also places a limit on the amount of compensation recoverable in medical malpractice lawsuits. This limit only applies to punitive damages, which cannot exceed 200% of the compensatory damages awarded. So, if a victim is awarded $500,000 for a case involving a surgical error, punitive damages would be limited to $1,000,000.
Additionally, 25% of all punitive damages awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit must be paid to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (Mcare) Fund, which was created to help ensure reasonable compensation for people who have been injured due to medical malpractice.
Get More Information from Our Pennsylvania Injury Attorneys
Serious injuries leave victims facing uncertain futures. Medical bills pile up. Missed work makes it difficult or impossible to pay living expenses. Then there’s the prospect of future care. At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, our attorneys recognize the importance of recovering fair, complete compensation after a catastrophic injury or the loss of a loved one. Our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers handle all types of accident and injury claims against any at-fault parties, including the Commonwealth and other government entities. We’ve been serving Pennsylvanians for nearly 100 years. To find out how we can help you, call (888) 498-3023 or contact us online!