Does Your State Impose Reward Caps on Personal Injury Suits?
Sometimes we hear in the media about multi-million dollar lawsuits being filed in court and have to wonder to ourselves if there is really any limit to the amount that an individual may ask of from the courts. It can seem almost outrageous at times the amounts that some people feel that they are legally entitled to. However, you should note that many states do in fact have limits on the amount that a person may sue for in a personal injury lawsuit. The reality is that many of those multi-million dollar lawsuits are settled for a lot less money than that.
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that caps on personal injury punitive damages are legal, but they have left the limit setting up to the states. This means that there is a pretty wide range of outcomes from different states. The lower amounts come in around $250,000 while the higher end of the range goes all the way up to $10 million. No matter what, you need to know if you state has a legal limit and what that limit is. Your attorney should have that information for you, and he or she can direct you as to how much to ask for in your particular case.
Punitive damages are different from economic and non-economic damages. The later are things that are measured in terms of literally how much cost there was to an individual as a result of their injuries (i.e. medical bills) and how much of a mental toll and pain and suffering they may have suffered as well. Those are all calculations that are more or less left up to the court to work out, but the punitive damages are something that can have certain legal restrictions on them that are calculated mathematically based on the economic and non-economic charges. In other words, it is common to see a limit on punitive charges in the realm of three times the amount of economic and non-economic charges combined.
The reason for restricting how much a person may ask a court for is to prevent outrageous amounts of money being asked for of the courts by attorneys who simply believe that if they start at a very high number that they will win at least something. It is about setting expectations, and it is even about defendant’s rights to some extent. You see, the defendant ought to be able to know approximately how much they may be on the hook for before they end up in court. All of these reasons give the courts a lot of reasons to want to have the limits on personal injury compensation.
The system is so different from state to state that it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to try to figure out exactly what the circumstances are in your particular state and what you can do to work with that attorney to get as much money from your claim as you possibly can.