AZ Auto Accidents: No Damage Caps & Punitive Damages Are Possible
UPDATED: February 20, 2020
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident law decisions. Finding trusted and reliable legal advice should be easy. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Many states limit the amount of damages you can receive for the injuries you sustain in an auto accident. However, Arizona is notone of those states. There are no caps on damages and receiving punitive damages is also possible.
No limitations on damages
Unlike its neighboring states of Texas and California, Arizona doesn't place a limitation on damages when you're involved in an auto accident. We asked Dave Wattel, an Arizona attorney who has been handling plaintiffs' cases exclusively for over 20 years, to explain:
There are no caps on damages and thank goodness we have a constitutional right to pursue personal injury claims here in Arizona. It's not so in other states. In fact, I read a book not long ago called 90 Minutes in Heavenby Don Piper. Don was severely injured and he lived in Texas at the time. The state of Texas had some responsibility and the cap on payment was $250,000 – which didn’t come close to covering his medical expenses.
I had a client just this year who had a claim against the state of Arizona for a significant injury and we were able to obtain a payment of $2 million. Had this accident occurred in the state of Texas, $1.75 million would never have been collected for this client who was well deserving of the money.
Punitive damages are possible
Wattel told us that punitive damages are absolutely possible and are not necessarily rare in auto accident cases because there are still have a lot of people out there that choose to act dumb by driving while impaired, whether from alcohol or drugs – and that those claims are pursued by his firm. However, he did provide this caution:
There are some cases that have come through the Arizona court system and through the United States Supreme Court that potentially limit the amount of punitive damages in terms of its ratio to compensatory or special damages such as medical expenses, lost wages and things of that nature. If somebody’s compensatory claim is worth $50,000, you may be hard pressed to collect more than $50,000 or $100,000 in punitive damages. With the advent of these recent court decisions, punitive damages need to have a smaller ratio to compensatory damages than we've historically seen.