Personal injury law is part of the state legal code and personal injury cases, including the damages that can be awarded in a lawsuit, are therefore governed by state laws. Every state has its own established caps on the damages that can be assigned in personal injury lawsuits.
A cap is the maximum dollar amount that a defendant can be held responsible for if damages are awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. Most states have established caps for punitive damages, and some have caps set for other types of damages as well.
Punitive damages are only applicable in cases where defendant’s actions or conduct which resulted in injuries are found to be excessively or egregiously careless. Other instances where punitive damages may be awarded include cases where the defendant’s actions or conduct were grossly or maliciously negligent.
Punitive damages are an award of compensation that’s designed to accomplish two things:
- punish the defendant by hitting them with high financial liability in addition to any compensatory damages that are awarded to the claimant
- deter the defendant and others from acting in the same egregious and dangerous manner in the future
The most common types of personal injury lawsuits in which states assign caps on damages include:
- medical malpractice
- wrongful death
In addition to some states assigning caps for damages in certain types of personal injury claims, many states also have established caps for particular types of damages too. Most often, it’s the non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, which are capped.