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Although it may seem like the sky is the limit when it comes to personal injury damage awards, in many cases a damages cap may limit compensation in an injury case.
A damages cap can apply in a number of different situations. Case in point: In a lawsuit brought by a 13-year-old girl injured in the 2011 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair, the Indiana Court of Appeals this week upheld an Indiana law limiting the state's total liability for an incident to $5 million. In that incident, seven people were killed and more than 100 were injured. Nevertheless, Indiana's damages cap limited total recovery to $5 million among the more than 62 victims who settled with the state, in addition to $6 million for 59 other victims approved by state legislators.
With this case in mind, how might a damages cap affect your injury case?
Damages Caps Vary by State
Like many other facets of injury law, damages caps vary widely by state. Generally, however, a damages cap limits the amount of damages a plaintiff is able to recover from a defendant, either in total or for specific types of damages.
In some states, a damages cap may limit the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff may recover, including so-called "pain and suffering" damages or hedonic damages (for the loss of enjoyment of life). In other states, such as Indiana, damages caps may also limit the government's total liability for injury claims.
Medical Malpractice Damage Caps
One area of personal injury law in which damages caps are common is medical malpractice. Under the rationale of limiting the cost of insurance for medical providers, these caps often severely limit the potential recovery of a medical malpractice plaintiff.
Medical malpractice damages caps have recently come under fire in several states for being unfairly restrictive. In Florida, for example, the Florida Supreme Court struck down that state's damages cap on wrongful death awards in medical malpractice cases last year.
To learn more about damages in injury lawsuits, head over to FindLaw's section on Accident and Injury Law.