Our San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer Explains Caps on Damages
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
Posted in News & Articles | Posted by: George Heppner - San Diego Personal Injury Attorney
In most personal injury cases, plaintiffs hope to recover money damages as compensation for injuries. There are two general classes of damages, economic and noneconomic. Economic damages compensate for medical bills, costs to repair damaged property, or specific costs incurred as results of injuries. Noneconomic damages compensate for all other effects of injuries, emotional distress and pain and suffering as examples. Damages caps laws limit the amount of noneconomic damage awards. Each state has its own damages cap, and the federal government has capped noneconomic damages at $250,000 for medical malpractice claims.
Why Damages Caps?
An initial question may be what is the point of a damages cap. Damages caps may seem to be unfair to plaintiffs, the people who bring the lawsuits. If a jury determines that a plaintiff deserves $10 million in damages, why should the courts set that determination aside? There is merit to this question, but the counter-argument is because many believe high awards can drag down the overall economy.
Damages caps attempt to manage the high costs of doing business, ultimately passed on to consumers, by reducing the service provider exposure to liability. In a medical malpractice case, a doctor’s mistake can have devastating consequences for the patient, and juries might wish to award to the patient millions of dollars in noneconomic damages. In most cases, the doctor’s medical malpractice insurer pays those damages and starts a chain reaction of increasing costs.
To recover the millions paid in damages and to provide for the risk of future large damages awards, the insurance company increases medical malpractice insurance premium costs to the doctor. This increase costs doctors more to practice medicine and ultimately costs patients more on their medical bills.
In addition to managing the costs of doing business, damages caps also discourage lawsuit lotto or suing simply to win lots of money. Courts want to reserve the justice system for plaintiffs with actual injuries needing and seeking compensation.
Can a Jury Get Around Damages Caps?
Juries usually cannot get around damages caps because most juries do not know about them. Judges do not instruct juries about damages caps because they do not want them to use caps as starting points for damages assessments. Instead, courts encourage juries to award amounts they think are fair and then modify the awards according to the cap.
Consult a San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury law involves a diversity of factual situations under many sets of circumstances. One common thread is monetary compensation sought by a San Diego personal injury lawyer for harm caused by negligence. This right to recover damages is based on the legal principle that a blameless plaintiff should not have to bear the cost of an injury caused by defendant misconduct.
The plaintiff should hire a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible for many reasons. The defendant’s insurer company has a team of lawyers dedicated to the defendant’s interests. The plaintiff needs a trustworthy lawyer to even the odds. The state statute of limitations sets the time frame within which to file personal injury claims. To miss this deadline is to end any claim, no matter how worthy. Plaintiffs should not expect the defendants’ insurance companies to pay their medical expenses except as damages at the closure of the case. If, however, the plaintiff’s health insurance company refuses to pay bills, the plaintiff’s lawyer can make sure the insurer meets its contractual responsibilities. For professional assistance and representation in recovering full and fair compensation for personal injuries, contact a San Diego personal injury lawyer today at (619) 235-4300.