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Does Tennessee Have a Cap on Non-Economic Damages Victims Can Recover? 

Posted on in Personal Injury

Campbell County Personal Injury AttorneyUnder Tennessee law, if a person is injured in an accident or incident that is caused by another party’s negligence or recklessness, they are entitled to pursue legal action against that party for financial compensation for their medical bills, loss of income, and other expenses associated with the accident. These are referred to as economic damages.

A victim is also able to pursue financial compensation for non-economic damages. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and other long-term or permanent effects the injuries caused in the victim’s life.

While there are no caps on the amount of economic damages a victim can collect, Tennessee is one of only 11 states that does have a cap on the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded. Although there has been an ongoing debate about the fairness of that cap since it was passed in 2011, in a recent ruling the Tennessee Supreme Court has again affirmed the law.

Tennessee Tort Law

Under Tennessee law, a victim can only recover up to $750,000 for non-economic damages in a personal injury or wrongful death claim. In addition to pain and suffering and emotional anguish, other losses that fall under this category can include permanent disability, loss of life enjoyment, and loss of consortium on the part of a spouse.

There are exceptions to the law where the victim or their family can receive damages up to $1 million. The exceptions include:

  • The accident left the victim a paraplegic or quadriplegic.

  • The accident caused the amputation of both of the victim’s hands and feet.

  • The accident caused the victim to suffer from extensive third-degree burns.

  • The at-fault party was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

  • If the victim was a minor child in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Challenges to the Cap

There have been a number of personal injury cases challenging the cap that have made their way through the court system to no avail. In the most recent case, not only did the state supreme court rule that the cap was constitutional, but the justices also ruled that the $750,000 is a single cap for all claims asserted in a personal injury action.

The case involved a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a woman and her husband against several of the woman’s medical providers. The lawsuit alleged that a medical device was accidentally left in the woman’s abdomen during kidney surgery. The device was not discovered until eight years later when the woman underwent gallbladder surgery. In the lawsuit, the woman only sought non-economic damages. Her husband also sought non-economic damages for the loss of consortium.

The lawsuit went to trial and the jury awarded the woman $4 million for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. They awarded her husband $500,000 for loss of consortium. The trial judge put a cap of $750,000 on the woman’s award and $500,000 on the husband’s award for a total of $1.25 million in non-economic damages. An appeals court affirmed the trial judge’s decision, so the defendants appealed to the state’s highest court, which ruled that the cap applies to all non-economic damages and must be applied in the aggregate. Therefore, the couple is only entitled to a total of $750,000.

Contact a Campbell County Personal Injury Lawyer

This recent ruling emphasizes how critical it is that victims have a seasoned Jacksboro, TN personal injury attorney advocating for them in order to succeed in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. A skilled attorney will gather evidence and testimony to help a victim receive the financial compensation they deserve based on the circumstances of their case. If you have been injured, call The Law Office of William F. Evans today at 423-449-7980 to schedule a free consultation and find out what your legal options may be.

 

Sources:

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/2020/2/27/pr20-06.html

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/williamson/2019/08/28/tort-reform-judge-finds-caps-tennessee-damages-unconstitutional/2129748001/

 

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