In the past decade, limits placed on the dollar amount plaintiffs can seek for non-economic damages have become the norm, though controversial. Damage caps factor heavily in tort reform by attempting to reduce excessive pay outs by the defendants for emotional damages like pain and suffering, disfigurement or loss of enjoyment of life.
That said, these caps can also set an unfair boundary on a victim’s (or the family of a victim’s) right to compensation in the event of a personal injury accident.
Damage Caps in Tennessee
Last month, during a case involving AT&T, Tennessee courts decided that the state law on damage caps was “unconstitutional.” More specifically, the sum of money that can be collected from a personal injury lawsuit for noneconomic damages was called into question.
Damage cap laws in Tennessee went into effect in 2011 with the Civil Justice Act under the urging of Governor Bill Haslam. The Civil Justice Act limited payouts to $750,000 for personal injuries caused by doctors and businesses.
The judge responsible for the comment about the law being “unconstitutional” and stirring up the controversy feels placing a cap is disrespectful to a jury because they should have the freedom to choose the award amount.
This ruling could yet be overturned. However, in the event that it’s upheld, it would mean that Tennessee would become one of only four U.S. states to deem damage caps as unconstitutional. The three states are Florida, Illinois and Missouri.
So far, five other states (Indiana, Nebraska, Idaho, Maryland and Mississippi) have upheld rulings that placing damage caps should be allowed. Mississippi, for example, has a damage cap of $1 million on personal injury claims that are deemed non-economic.
If you have been seriously injured, then the idea that someone can place a monetary limit on your pain and/or losses can be infuriating.
Hopefully, you’ll never be hurt enough to come anywhere near the $750,000 damage cap, but regardless be sure to contact the Tennessee personal injury attorneys at Gilreath & Associates for a consultation if you believe negligence played a role in your injury.