One of the central purposes of a personal injury claim is to put the injured party back in the position they would have been if not for the injury. This is one reason why much of personal injury law is concerned with calculating damages: Before you can be financially compensated for all you have lost, you must know exactly how much you have lost.
If you have been badly injured in a serious accident caused by someone else’s negligence, your total amount of damages may be extremely high. No amount of money can return your life to the way it was before your injury, but you should be compensated so that you and your family have the resources you need to cope with the aftermath of an accident.
Unfortunately, Tennessee law places a cap on how much you can recover in certain types of damages. In this post, we will explore how this works, and what it could mean for you.
But first, we need to explain the basics of damages.
Types of damages
There are different types of damages. One way to categorize them follows:
- Economic damages: This category includes the costs of medical and rehabilitative care, lost wages and other losses that can be documented with bills, paystubs and other hard evidence. It can also include future losses, such as the costs of your ongoing rehabilitative care or your diminished earning potential after your lawsuit is over.
- Non-economic damages: This includes losses that are harder to measure, such as your pain and suffering and the damage to your relationship with your spouse. For many people, it seems strange to put a price on these losses, but if they were caused by someone else’s negligence, then they should be compensated in some way.
- Punitive damages: In some cases, courts will allow punitive damages that are designed to punish a defendant for egregious conduct.
The damages cap
Tennessee law places a cap on the amount that a person can collect in non-economic damages in a personal injury case. Generally, a plaintiff can collect only up to $750,000 in non-economic damages.
However, there are exceptions.
The cap goes up to $1 million if the injury is considered “catastrophic.” For the purposes of the damages cap law, a catastrophic injury includes the following scenarios:
- Severe paralysis due to spinal damage
- Loss of both hands, both feet or one of each
- Third-degree burns covering 40% of the victim’s body or 40% of their face
- In a wrongful death case, the loss of the parent of a minor child
Note that the cap applies only to non-economic damages. There is no such limit on the economic damages that a plaintiff can collect. Medical expenses, lost wages and other economic damages can easily top $1 million in many cases.
Maximize your compensation
While the damages cap places limits on what you can expect to recover in your personal injury lawsuit, it shouldn’t stop you from recovering what you can. Experienced attorneys help the injured and their families to learn how to maximize the amount of compensation they can recover after an accident caused by another party’s negligence.