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What You Need to Know About Caps on Your Tort Claim

In 2011, despite intense lobbying from interested groups, including AARP and trial attorney associations, the Tennessee General Assembly approved a new bill that places caps on the amounts that plaintiffs can recover from defendants in personal injury suits. These mandatory caps may have an effect on the maximum amount of compensation you can recover.

Under the new law, compensatory damages have been divided into two categories:

  • Economic damages: These are damages that can be quantified, such as loss of earnings, property damage and medical expenses.
  • Noneconomic damages: These are damages related to the pain and suffering and emotional distress resulting from the injury in question.

What are the specific caps that might affect my case?

These are the specific caps introduced by the new legislation:

  • Noneconomic damages: A cap of $750,000 on noneconomic damages per plaintiff, unless the damage was intentionally inflicted.
  • Special injuries: A cap of $1 million in cases where the plaintiff (1) suffered a spinal cord injury leaving the person a paraplegic or a quadriplegic, (2) suffered third-degree burns over more than 40 percent of the body, (3) had to have a hand or foot amputated or (4) has died and left behind at least one child.
  • Punitive damages: A cap on punitive damages of the greater of $500,000 or two times the amount of compensatory damage, unless the harm to the plaintiff was intentionally inflicted or the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or tried to evade liability by falsifying records.
  • Products liability claims: No punitive damages are permitted in products liability claims unless the plaintiff can prove that the seller had a great deal of control over the design and production of the product or had knowledge of the defect causing the injury.

Economic damages — such as loss of earnings, property damage and medical expenses — are not capped.

These caps on the amount recoverable can have an effect on your tort claim. If you’ve suffered an injury, contact an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney to help you recover the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled.

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