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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What are damage caps in Texas personal injury cases?

Damage caps are typically seen in personal injury and wrongful death cases. These caps are a way to limit the amount of money an injured person can receive from the defendant in the lawsuit. We generally see damages caps in three situations:

  • Where punitive damages are awarded in personal injury and wrongful death cases
  • Where someone seeks personal injury damages against a public entity
  • In medical malpractice cases

Why Have Damage Caps?

Damage caps were introduced in the hopes of reducing a congested court system by reducing the amount of frivolous claims filed. Frivolous claims are those filed by people who are not seeking just compensation and have ulterior motives for filing, not people who have been legitimately injured in an accident. The whole purpose of personal injury law is to allow a personal injury victim to receive compensation for their injuries and to hold the negligent party accountable. Damage caps may be a barrier to that goal, but for now, they do exist in Texas.

Punitive Damage Caps in Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Cases

Punitive damages are non-compensatory (lost wages and medical bills), non-economic (pain and suffering) damages that are awarded to a plaintiff when the defendant’s behavior was so egregious as to warrant punishment.

In Texas, punitive damages are limited to twice the amount of compensatory (i.e. economic) damages, plus the amount equal to the non-economic damages, not exceeding $750,000 or $200,000, whichever is greater. For example, if you are awarded $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, plus $800,000 in non-economic damages, and the jury awarded punitive damages, those punitive damages would be capped at $2,750,000.

Personal Injury Damage Caps - Public Entities

Generally, government entities are immune from most liability for personal injuries. Where they are liable, there are significant damage caps for victims. Depending on the type of government entity, the damage caps differ.

If you have been personally injured by the negligence of a government entity such as the state, a municipality or emergency services organization, the damages cap is $250,000 per person, or $500,000 per occurrence. This means that is a family of three is injured in a single accident due to the negligence of a government entity, that family will not receive $750,000, but will have to split the maximum occurrence damage cap of $500,000.

For personal injuries caused by public entities other than the ones state above, the damages cap for each person is $100,000 and $300,000 for each occurrence.

Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

In 2003, Texas passed the Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003, an act that limited the amount of money that a person can receive in the form of non-economic damages. The law still allows injured persons to seek full compensation for medical bills and lost wages, but pain and suffering damages are limited to $250,000 for each healthcare facility and provider, not to exceed $500,000 among all facilities involved in the occurrence. This amount is adjusted for inflation.

For wrongful death claims arising from medical malpractice, the total recovery cap is currently about $1,650,000, again, adjusted for inflation.

Trust The Personal Injury Specialists

If you or someone you care about has been injured in an accident, call Sawicki Law today at 888-468-8844 for a free consultation.

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