When you win a personal injury lawsuit, it’s easy to assume that you will be awarded the full amount that the jury has awarded you. However, most states, including the state of Massachusetts have damage caps that limit the amount of damages that you are entitled to.
What is a Damage Cap?
When you sue someone, you are entitled to two types of damages: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to damages that you can put a dollar amount to. This includes funeral expenses, medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, etc. Non-economic damages refer to damages that you can’t put an exact dollar amount to. This includes pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.
Simply put, the laws that limit the amount of non-economic damages you can recieve in your personal injury case are known as damage caps.
Why Do Damage Caps Exist?
You may be wondering why damage caps exist because they sound unfair to you and whoever else brings a personal injury lawsuit. If the jury has already decided that you are entitled to $5million in a medical malpractice case why should the court decide to reduce that amount? The answer to this question is simple; high awards can negatively affect the economy.
By reducing the liability of service providers, damage caps are able to reduce the high costs of conducting business. Keep in mind that these high costs are usually passed on to the consumer. For instance, if you are awarded $10million in your medical malpractice lawsuit, the doctor’s medical malpractice company will pay for those damages.
In order to make up for the $10 million paid in damages, and mitigate the risk of future of such large awards,the insurance company will increase the premium for doctor’s medical malpractice insurance. This means the doctor will have to increase the cost of medical care in order to be able to meet the cost of paying for their insurance premium. The price increase in medical care will be passed on to the patient.
Apart from dragging down the economy, large damage awards can encourage people to file for lawsuits simply because they hope they will win a lot of money. By putting a damage cap, the court system ensures that people who file personal injury lawsuits are fairly compensated and that the justice system actually serves people who are truly injured.
Is it Possible for a Jury to Get Around a Damages Cap?
Most juries don’t know about damage caps so they cannot get around them. Personal injury lawyers and judges do not inform juries about damages caps because they don’t want them to use the caps as a starting point for deciding how a plaintiff deserves to be awarded. They prefer to instruct juries to award an amount they think is fair. The amount is then modified later on according to the Massachusetts state cap.
Limits on Non-economic Damage Caps
Economic damages include what your insurance company has already paid out or will continue to pay out because of your injuries. These are concrete amounts that you will continue to miss out on or have already missed out on such as lost wages or future lost wages. Unlike economic damages, a jury will make a more subjective evaluation of non-economic damages and so many states, including Massachusetts have a cap on these damages. The cap amounts vary from one state to another but the amount ranges from $350, 000-$750, 000.
However, personal injury cases that involve serious injuries or death are an exception when it comes to damage cap laws. In such situations, damage cap laws can either eliminate the cap or increase it altogether.
Limit on Punitive Damage Caps
Punitive damages not only punish wrongdoers who intentionally hurt other people but they also deter other people from acting the same way. The damages awarded are usually dependent on the defendant’s wealth. Before 2005, if a plaintiff could prove that a defendant was rich, the amount of punitive damages they received usually exceeded other damages in their case. After reforms in punitive damages, the U.S Supreme Court put in place guidelines to prevent excessive awards.
Punitive damages for medical malpractice cases are available in Massachusetts but those have a limit of $500, 000 unless the injury is catastrophic.
Hiring a Plymouth Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, at work or are the victim of medical malpractice in Plymouth, MA, our personal injury attorneys at Kevin P Landry Law Offices have the experience to help you maximize your damages. We understand that your case is unique and therefore we are willing to work tirelessly to get you the justice you deserve. Contact us at 508-746-2700 for a free initial consultation.