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Is There a Cap on Personal Injury Claims?

Posted in Personal Injury on August 15, 2019

If you are filing a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim, you may wonder what your chances are of receiving a multi-million-dollar settlement like some of the cases you read about in the media. Settlement amounts vary from case to case, and different states may place a cap on the amount of damages you are allowed to collect in these lawsuits. You may wonder if California has the same restrictions – and here’s what you need to know.

Does California Have Economic Damage Caps?

When you file a personal injury lawsuit in California civil court, you can claim compensation for a number of losses associated with the accident that led to your injuries. These monetary losses, also known as damages, can cover a wide range of expenses and consequences.

The most common and easiest to prove form of damages are economic damages. These are more  objective and usually involve hard documentation, including invoices, receipts, credit card statements, and medical reports. Economic damages usually have a monetary impact and can involve the following expenses.

  • Past and future medical bills related to the injuries sustained in the accident
  • Household services and vocational rehabilitation
  • Lost income and loss of earning capacity due to disability and recovery from the injuries
  • Property damage
  • Disability renovation accommodations

Because economic damages are directly related to the monetary losses suffered by you, the state of California does not place a limit on the amount you can collect in a lawsuit. However, you will need to prove that you sustained these injuries as a result of the negligence of the other person involved in your accident.

Non-Economic Damage Caps in California

Non-economic damages are harder to prove, since they involve the intangible losses, emotional damage, and shifts in your life you suffered as a result of your injuries. Your attorney can help you estimate how much of these damages you may qualify for – typically, courts use a multiplier system or set values to determine how much you can receive.

Some of the most common forms of non-economic damages include the following.

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Mental anguish
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Humiliation
  • Loss of enjoyment of activities

California does place some limits on who can collect non-economic damages. In most cases, uninsured drivers cannot claim non-economic damages. However, uninsured drivers can claim these damages if the other driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and received a DUI conviction.

In addition, if you file a medical malpractice claim, you cannot claim more than $250,000 in non-economic damages.

Punitive Damage Limits in California

In certain circumstances, the courts may award you a certain amount of punitive damages. The purpose of these damages is not to compensate you for your injuries and losses – instead, the intention of punitive damages is to punish the at-fault party in your claim.

The courts will grant punitive damages in situations where the at-fault party acted with malice, oppression, or fraud. Usually, the at-fault party harmed you either intentionally or in an act of extreme negligence and recklessness.

To determine the amount of punitive damages you can receive, the court will take into consideration the following criteria

  • How severe the act of harm was to you
  • The relationship between the injuries you suffered and the amount of damages
  • How much money it will take to punish the at-fault party

Unlike many other states, California does not set a limit on how much in punitive damages you can receive. The more reckless or dangerous the behavior, the higher the amount will be.

The amount of damages you can collect in your personal injury lawsuit will depend on the facts of your case – from how much you paid in medical expenses to the emotional pain and suffering the accident inflicted on you. To accurately calculate your damages, contact a California personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you find the optimal pathway to maximum possible compensation.