Is There a Cap on Car Accident Claims?

By Chris Dixon


If you have been injured in a car accident because of another person’s negligence, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The average amount that is awarded for a car accident claim in the U.S. is around $21,000. There are a number of factors that go into play when determining how much your claim should receive, and they can vary greatly. These varying factors can make the process difficult as the amount that every car accident claim receives because of this isn’t always favorable.The amount that can be received for some damages is limitless, while others are susceptible to a cap on the amount that can be disbursed in some states. If you are wondering why there is a cap on some car accident claims in certain states and not others, consulting with a personal injury lawyer can help make sense of things.

Why is There a Cap on Car Accident Claims?

It’s a difficult fact that not every car accident claim receives compensation, and the cases that do aren’t always happy with the results. In some states in the U.S. there is a damages cap on how much a car accident claim can receive. While any tangible damage such as property damage or injuries that happened as a direct cause of the accident can be fully compensated, non-physical damages such as pain and suffering, emotional damage, and loss of affection have a limit to how much they can receive, no matter the severity in some states.

A damages cap is a law that a state has in place that limits the amount that non-economic damages can receive. This law is in place to manage the cost of doing business, and to keep the justice system fair and protected against those who are faking damages so that they can get as much money as possible. While this might seem unfair to those who are actually injured in accidents and have legitimate car accident claims, this is a necessary evil for some states. Millions of dollars are awarded every year for physical property damage and injuries which are paid for by insurance companies. If the amount that is awarded for damages is increased for all types of damages, this would result in an increase in costs for the consumer in the form of insurance payments, out-of-pocket costs, etc. so some states have elected to have a damages cap on car accident claims.

Types of Damages that Fall Under the Damages Cap

The important thing to keep in mind about a damages cap is that there are two categories of damages that damage can fall under: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are costs that have occurred due to the accident such as medical bills and fees, and non-economic damages are all other types of damage such as pain and suffering and loss of affection. While there isn’t a damages cap on economic damages, there is a damages cap on how much someone can receive in non-economic damages in some states. Some of the more common damages that occur in car accidents and the category that they fall under are:

  • Medical Bills: Medical bills in the U.S. can be steep, and depending on the injuries that you sustained in a car accident, can require intensive treatment. Medical bills do not fall under the damages account, so if you are injured in a car accident, you could be entitled to full compensation.
  • Treatment from a Psychiatrist: Loss of happiness and overall dissatisfaction with life can creep its way into all aspects of life. While there is treatment out there available that can help victims with this, there is a damages cap on how much they can receive for this on car accident claims.
  • Cost of Medicine: More serious car accident injuries will require medicine which sometimes will need to be paid for out-of-pocket. This amount can fully be recovered though since there is not a damages cap on this damage.
  • PTSD: The impact of being involved in a car accident can be powerful. They happen suddenly and can leave people reeling and not knowing what to do about it. Sometimes this will manifest into PTSD, which medically speaking is no different than treating a broken arm once diagnosed by a doctor, and there isn’t a damages cap to how much can be recovered for it.
  • Vehicle Damage: Damage done to motor vehicles and any property within them are considered property damage. As such, the amount that someone can receive if these damages happen to their property can be fully compensated as their is a monetary value attached to them.
  • Loss of Affection: If an injured spouse starts acting distant or abnormal toward their spouse after an accident, loss of affection can be claimed by the non-injured spouse. While the impact of this can be great, this falls under a damages cap so there is a limit on how much this emotional damage can receive.

Which States Have a Cap on Car Accident Claims?

Some states have elected to have a cap on car accident claims, while others have decided that it’s unfair or not necessary. States that have elected to have a damages cap put in place on car accident claims include Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts and Tennessee. The cap that each of these states has put on non-economic damages varies, but to provide some context, Colorado’s cap on car accident claims is $468,010, while Tennessee’s cap is $750,000. When researching damages caps on car accident claims in certain states, do keep in mind that these fall liable to a Statutes of Limitations. This is the amount of time that someone that is injured in a car accident has to file a lawsuit for their injuries. Some states allow for a moderate amount of time to file a car accident claim such as in Missouri, where the Statutes of Limitations states that someone has five years to file, while Tennessee has a comparatively short amount of time, 1 year, to file a claim for a car accident.

Can a Damages Cap be Disputed for a Car Accident?

In most cases, unless someone has suffered ‘permanent physical impairment’ because of a car accident, this cap cannot be successfully disputed. There are high limits on the evidence required to prove that a non-economic damage is debilitating and convincing in the eyes of the court in which the damages cap is in place. Generally, juries are not informed of damages caps so that they won’t use that figure as a starting point and award the defendant more money than the cap allows for. Instead, juries are supposed to use their best judgement and award the amount that they think will be fair to the defendant, and from there, that amount is modified to fit the state’s damages cap.

Still Curious About Your State’s Laws on Damages Caps?

If you are wondering whether or not your injury from an accident falls under a damages cap in a state, and want to get more information on this topic, reaching out to a personal injury lawyer can help. Lawyers that personal injury lawyer in this particular area of practice will be able to give you an idea of where the details of your case fall, why this is, and what else can be done to make sure that you receive the compensation that you deserve. In states without a damages cap, if you are unhappy with the amount that you received for non-economic damages, a personal injury lawyer can give you some insight into how to contest this, and recover the damages that you may be entitled to. When you are ready to discuss your case, contact the Dixon Injury Firm and their personal injury attorneys to see what can be done for your car accident claim.

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