Will My Personal Injury Claim Have a Damage Cap? - Mazow | McCullough, PC
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Will My Personal Injury Claim Have a Damage Cap?

If you were injured and plan on filing a personal injury claim, you need to get familiar with the concept of a damage cap and how it could affect your case. Below, we go over the types of damage caps in personal injury cases and how you can maximize your compensation.

Definition of a Damage Cap

A damage cap is the legal limit of financial compensation that a personal injury plaintiff can receive as part of a settlement or court judgment.

Damage caps are theoretically designed to restrict plaintiffs from being grossly overcompensated. Remember the McDonald’s hot coffee case? The plaintiff won $2.7 million. Most people would say this is an astronomical amount of compensation just for spilling hot coffee on oneself.

But realistically, these caps only hurt legitimately injured victims. According to the American Museum of Tort Law, the plaintiff suffered extensive burns to her groin that required skin grafting. She initially offered to settle with McDonald’s for just $20,000 to cover her medical bills, but they refused.

During the trial, it was discovered that McDonald’s kept their coffee much hotter than other restaurants to cut waste. The jury found the establishment grossly negligent and the plaintiff was compensated, but nowhere near $2.7 million. The damages were capped at less than $500,000 and the final settlement amount remains undisclosed.

Types of Damage Caps in Personal Injury Claims

There are four main types of damages and caps in a personal injury claim:

Economic Damage Caps

Economic damages are the actual monetary losses a person incurs after an accident. These are things that have an actual dollar value, like the cost of going to the emergency room after being injured.

Some states put caps on these damages, but Massachusetts and New Hampshire do not.

Non-Economic Damage Caps

Non-economic damages are intangible losses that really can’t be calculated, like pain and suffering or the loss of a loved one. Most states have caps on how much plaintiffs can be awarded in this category.

However, these limits can vary depending on the type of claim and who the claim is filed against. Massachusetts residents can’t claim more than $500,000 for medical malpractice claims, while New Hampshire residents are capped at $875,000 for any kind of injury filing. Massachusetts’ cap also doesn’t apply in cases of catastrophic injury or disfigurement.

Punitive Damage Caps

Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for causing serious, unforgivable harm or exhibiting gross negligence. Like non-economic damages, there are usually caps on how much a defendant can be ordered to pay.

Massachusetts law states that punitive damages cannot be greater than a 9 to 1 ratio with economic damages. In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as “punitive damages,” but the state does have “enhanced compensatory damages.” This is essentially the same thing and can be ordered in cases of particularly oppressive, malicious, or hateful actions.

Total Damage Caps

Total damage caps are limits on the total amount of damages that can be awarded. These generally vary depending on the type of case. In New Hampshire, plaintiffs who are filing a personal injury claim against the state may not be awarded more than $2,000,000 per claim. Massachusetts has no cap for total damages.

Tips for Maximizing Damages Even With a Cap

Even if the compensation you could receive in your personal injury claim is capped, there are still ways you can maximize the amount you receive. You should:

Document Everything

Evidence is your best friend when it comes to proving damages in any personal injury case. Keep your medical records, diagnostic test results, medical bills, photographs, and any other critical paperwork in a safe place until you can give it to your lawyer.

This can help you prove that the defendant’s actions were intentional or grossly negligent and that you suffered substantially as a result.

Work With Medical Experts and Financial Professionals

Medical expert witnesses can also testify to how severely you were impacted by the injury both physically and emotionally.

Forensic accountants can calculate not only the expenses you’ve already incurred as a result of the accident, but also what costs you’re likely to face in the future. These are things like upcoming surgeries or lost earning capacity.

Hire a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney to Help You

A qualified personal injury lawyer is your most valuable resource when pursuing the financial restitution you deserve. Your attorney can help you negotiate with insurance adjusters, find the right medical care, and go to bat for you in court if needed.

Injured? Call Mazow | McCullough, PC Today

If you or someone you love was hurt in an accident, we can help you file a personal injury claim. Contact our office today to learn more or to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your case. Dial our Salem, MA office now at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.

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