State Limits on Certain Car Accident Damages

When you are injured in an accident and you make a claim for damages, they are divided into economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are those that are easily quantifiable, such as medical bills, lost wages, prescription medicines, transportation to and from the doctor, the cost of a housekeeper to do the cleaning while you are unable to, and other expenses. If the accident was the other party’s fault, you will be reimbursed for your reasonable and necessary economic losses (unless you live in a no-fault state).

Non-economic damages are those that are not easily quantifiable and include inconvenience and pain and suffering. In most states, there are no limitations when it comes to damages for pain and suffering, but that is changing. If you live in a state that places a limit on compensation for pain and suffering, that limit is the maximum you can get. In states that have such a limit, it is often in the amount of $250,000 or $500,000.

Depending on your specific situation, your medical bills, lost wages, the extent of your injury, whether or not you will have problems from your injury in the future such as temporary or permanent full or partial disability and your pain and suffering will be assessed and you will be awarded an amount to compensate you. Your award or settlement, however, will not exceed the statutory amount in your state, even if you think you deserve more, or even if you would likely be awarded more in another state.

The reason some states have limits, especially in certain types of cases like medical malpractice or aviation, is that there have been cries for tort reform backed by claims that without such limits, large verdicts have driven up the cost of insurance and have dissuaded insurance companies from doing business in some states. The argument for caps on pain and suffering is that consumers will have to pay higher costs because insurance companies and doctors have to pay more for insurance coverage. The opposing side argues that the real reason for caps on pain and suffering is that corporations, including doctors, want to limit their financial exposure. Caps would give them a lower cost of doing business. In any event, people with serious injuries, especially children, whose quality of life may have been substantially affected, but who can only get $250,000 when their case may be worth several million dollars elsewhere, may not benefit from such limitations.