Is There a Cap on Personal Injury Claims?

An injured woman holding the back of her neck in pain after a car accident.

Personal injury claims stem from many different types of events where there is evidence of negligence from another party. Anyone can get hurt: from a slip-and-fall accident to medical malpractice to a car crash involving a reckless driver.

Those victims will likely have a claim to file for compensation for their injuries. However, given that personal injury cases are caused by various incidents creating substantial claims, there are situations where caps are put in place restricting the amounts of compensation. 

Were you hurt, and are you looking to file a personal injury claim but are unsure how a cap will affect you? Call Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law today to schedule your confidential and no-obligation consultation.

We will gladly evaluate your case to see if you are affected by any caps to your personal injury claim. Don’t wait and call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online to schedule your appointment today.

Why Are Punitive Damages Capped?

Becoming the victim in a situation where someone else was negligent can be a difficult and mentally exhausting state to be in. Navigating the legal system alone can be even more daunting when one is just looking for ways to heal and return to normal life.

To make matters worse, imagine finding out that there are caps to your claim. While the injured party cannot expect to bypass the law, it is in their best interest to be aware of the limits before filing any claims.

To best understand why punitive damages are capped, one must first understand what punitive damages are. Punitive damages — also known as Exemplary Damages — fall under tort theory in a court of law.

Punitive damages are granted when there is proof that the defendant engaged in willful and intentional behavior that injured the other party. Additionally, gross negligence and reckless behavior are considered to be grounds for punitive damages.

Gross negligence has to be proven to be especially harmful and is issued at the jury’s discretion in amounts that serve to punish and deter the same actions from happening in the future.

Punitive damages are, therefore, only available in cases that proceed to a civil jury trial. However, it is important to note that they are rarely awarded, as they are difficult to prove and often involve more serious charges.

When personal injury cases include punitive damages granted by the court, these cases will often receive significant media attention.

While there are no limits in place by California law for punitive damages, there are regulations placed by the federal government to prevent excessive or arbitrary punishments from being issued under the 14th Amendment.

What Is a Damage Cap?

A damage cap limits how much an injured party can recover as compensation for their injuries caused by another negligent party. This amount remains fixed even if the damages are more severe and worth more than the cap allows.

Caps can be placed by different governmental agencies, from State to federal governments.

3 Questions Courts Ask in Punitive Damage Claims

Courts rarely award compensation for punitive damages in a personal injury case. However, before deciding, they extensively evaluate all provided evidence showing that gross negligence or intentional harm was committed against the injured party. 

The three questions are:

  1. Did the committed act cause severe criticism from others, including neutral monitoring agencies or federal regulatory bodies?
  2. Is there a significant disparity between the heinousness of the act committed and the amount requested as compensation?
  3. Is there a difference between this claim for punitive damages and the other civil penalties in past similar cases?

Even if these questions are successfully answered and supported with detailed evidence, it does not guarantee that punitive damages will be awarded. The injured party should speak to their legal counsel and discuss their options before pursuing compensation for their injuries.

While the courts do not often grant compensation for punitive damages, victims should not let California’s damage caps deter them from filing a claim.

After all, navigating the process to receive compensation, fighting insurance companies, and identifying what damages are capped can be daunting and should not be done alone.

Medical Malpractice Cap

Medical malpractice involves proven negligence by a health care provider or medical institution that severely impacts a patient’s quality of life. In California, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (also known as MICRA) of 1975 introduced a law that placed a cap of $250,000 for medical malpractice cases.

Unfortunately, this created an almost impenetrable barrier that prevented many from receiving more compensation for damages caused by medical staff and hospitals.

As a result, MICRA caps impacted a lot of cases, including those involving blindness, chronic pain, and permanent disability, to just $250,000.

In medical malpractice cases, multiple types of damages are included in each case. They are punitive damages, economic and non-economic damages, and compensatory damages.

Compensatory damages are a monetary value that will make the victim whole. This compensation will cover the victim for all the ways that they have suffered after the incident.

These amounts quickly surpass the $250,000 cap.

However, in 2023, after decades of restricting the compensation amount, legislators passed Assembly Bill 35, which would increase amounts from $250,000 to $350,000 per non-death claim with an increase of $40,000 annually through 2033 until it reaches $750,000.

Who Can Commit Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice can be committed by anyone responsible for the care of a patient that fails to do so.

Failure of care can be forgetting to feed the patient, operating on the wrong patient, performing the wrong kind of surgery, amputating the wrong limb, leaving medical equipment inside the patient, or giving the wrong medicine or dose.

Claims can be filed against an individual or the hospital as a whole.

Medical malpractice cases are not just limited to hospitals. They can be filed against other parties with medical offices and pharmacies. Medical malpractice claims can be filed against:

  • Hospitals
  • Laboratories
  • Doctor offices
  • Psychologists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Pharmacies
  • Pharmacists
  • Nurses
  • Doctors

Even though many medical offices have patients sign waivers against filing a medical malpractice claim, patients can still do so. The result of a medical malpractice case can be life-altering and severely impact one’s quality of life.

In these cases, there is often a larger claim for non-economic damages than economic ones.

If you have experienced medical malpractice, call Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law right away. There is no reason why you should be left with pain and suffering after this life-changing negative experience.

Our legal team has years of combined experience helping victims of medical malpractice in California, and we will gladly evaluate your case to see how we can help.

Most Personal Injury Claims Do Not Have a Cap on Compensation

As stated before, personal injury claims stem from various causes of negligence. Given so, there are cases where there are no caps on the amount of compensation that can be claimed against the defendant.

In fact, usually, there are no caps for personal injury cases filed in California, except for those involving medical malpractice and punitive damages in their claim.

Personal injury cases more commonly related to events involving:

Cases are investigated and usually contain punitive, economic, non-economic, and compensatory damages. The only cases involving caps are those of medical malpractice or punitive damages.

Economic Damages in a Claim

As part of a personal injury claim, economic damages account for the expected bills incurred while on the road to recovery. These are all tangible losses, including:

  • Medical bills — Including treatments and medical care sought to diagnose and correct injuries as well as the projected costs of any future care.
  • Property damage — Damage to clothes, shoes, smartphones, or cars, and so forth.
  • Lost Wages — From time taken off work to heal or attend medical appointments.
  • Inability to work — When injuries are so severe, the victim cannot perform their job anymore.

What are Non-Economic Damages?

Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages do not have a dollar amount attached to them but instead reflect the level of hardship placed upon the injury victim. Examples of non-economic damages include compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of bodily parts, including limbs and organs
  • Physical disfigurement caused by the injuries sustained at the time of the event
  • Humiliation, anxiety, grief, shock, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the event (PTSD), and emotional distress
  • Loss of partnership or consortium

Usually, non-economic damages are more likely to be awarded when physical injuries incur exuberant medical bills and costs, extensive need to document physical injuries, created long roads to recovery, and incurable permanent disfigurement. 

Additionally, those claiming non-economic damages often seek psychological care to diagnose and treat mental disorders that were caused by the negligence of the defendant.

These disorders can be anything from PTSD to depression and can absolutely be more than one condition diagnosed because of an injury.

Victims receiving non-economic damages will file a claim under compensatory damages. Claims will typically be calculated using a multiplier method to estimate how much compensation a victim can request for their losses.

Ready to Talk About Your Personal Injury Claim?

Negligence can lead to injuries that take a long time and extensive medical treatments to fully recover from. To make matters worse, there are cases that will be affected by damage caps.

Working with a personal injury lawyer who understands California law can give you the best fighting chance to receive compensation for your injuries.

Are you ready to file a personal injury claim for your injuries, but are you worried about the impacts of a damage cap? Call Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law today for a no-obligation and confidential case review.

Our expert team will be able to guide you throughout the process and understand California law and compensation caps. Call (559) 878-4958 or visit our website to schedule your consultation today.