More and more state legislatures are passing laws that limit the amount of damages a person can collect in a lawsuit. These caps on damages have been passed with heavy influence and lobbying by insurance companies. The insurance companies claim that their increasing premium rates are a result of run-away jury verdicts and the solution to reducing insurance premiums is to place caps on damages. These arguments have been proven false many times when a state passes a damage cap and its insurance premium rates do no decrease.
There are many types of caps on damages. Several states place a limit on the amount of non-economic damages in personal injury cases. The non-economic damages include pain and suffering, past and future mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life. Eight states have non-economic caps on damages including:
Caps on Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Matter
· Alaska Maryland Tennessee
· Colorado Mississippi Idaho
· Ohio Michigan
This means that 42 states plus the District of Columbia do not have damage caps in general personal injury cases on non-economic damages.
Medical Malpractice Caps
Twenty-Eight (28) states have caps on Medical Malpractice Claims. These states include:
· Alaska California Colorado Hawaii Idaho
· Indiana Iowa Louisiana Maine Maryland
· Massachusetts Michigan Mississippi Missouri Montana
· Nebraska Nevada New Mexico North Carolina N. Dakota
· Ohio South Carolina S. Dakota Tennessee Utah
· Virginia W. Virginia Wisconsin
Louisiana’s Caps on Damages
Louisiana’s cap on medical malpractice damages is $500,000 per claim regardless of how many claimants suffer damages. This means that if medical malpractice in Louisiana kills a parent, leaving a surviving spouse and 5 children, the cap of $500,000 is split between the spouse and surviving children. And to make matters worse, Louisiana’s $500,000 cap, which has never been adjusted for inflation, includes the economic damages of a person’s lost past and future wages.
Louisiana’s cap on damages has been challenged many times seeking a declaration that it is unconstitutional. None of these attempts, based on various theories, have ever been successful. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington also passed caps on damages, but their state courts declared those caps unconstitutional and struck those laws down.
Louisiana also has a $500,000 cap on damages in ANY TYPE of action (not just a medical malpractice case), involving the State of Louisiana as a defendant. Thus, if the state is negligent and injures someone, the plaintiff can only recover $500,000
States With Constitutions Prohibiting Caps
Some state constitutions actually prohibit the creation of damage caps. Five states prohibit caps in general tort claims including:
Damage Caps Prohibited in Wrongful Death Claims
Four others prohibit damage caps in wrongful death claims including:
· New York