There are three types of damages that plaintiffs can recover: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Economic damages are the actual cost of the injury, including medical bills, lost wages, and property damages. Non-economic damages are damages that do not have pre-determined dollar amounts, including physical and emotional suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment. Punitive damages are awarded to punish individuals or companies whose negligence was particularly egregious.
Plaintiffs who have suffered an injury and have had to undergo treatment, testing, or had to receive any other type of medical care (like an overnight hospital stay or physical therapy) can recover the cost of those services. Compensation for medical bills should include both the past cost of treatments and medical care and the future, continued cost of these services. The cost of prolonged or permanent care should be included.
Lost wages are the amount of money a plaintiff would have earned from their employer if the plaintiff had not been injured. Injured plaintiffs may need to take days, weeks, or months of sick leave to recover from an injury. Lost wages can also include future wages and earning capacity of the plaintiff if the injury will continue to keep the plaintiff out of work or changes the type of work the plaintiff can do after the injury.
Plaintiffs can claim the cost of property damage from an accident that resulted in an injury, like car damage from a car accident.
Pain and suffering
This type of damage pairs a monetary amount to the physical and emotional suffering the plaintiff when through as a result of the injury. Pain and suffering damages are usually calculated as a multiplier of the financial damages (like two times the amount of financial damages). The multiplier and final amount will be determined based on factors like: how much the injury change the plaintiff's life? How long was the recovery time for the injury? What kind of mental stress did the plaintiff suffer as a result of the injury?
Loss of consortium
Loss of consortium is a type of damage filed by the spouse of an injured plaintiff for the loss of services and marital companionship from their injured spouse, including the loss of sexual relations and loss of mental companionship. Only married couples are considered for these claims. In rare cases, parents can file for loss of consortium for young children if an injury left a child with severe, life-long injuries.
Loss of enjoyment
Everyone has a right to happiness and to live the life they choose. But if an injury has dramatically changed the way an individual experiences life, the person can sue for loss of enjoyment. This claim can include mental disorders like depression that stem from the injury as well as the loss of ability to perform everyday activities like grocery shopping, exercise, and personal hobbies.
Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff, they are meant to punish a defendant who acted “maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently, or recklessly.” After the court has decided compensation for economic and non-economic damages, it will consider if punitive damages should also be awarded. Punitive damages are only awarded for especially egregious acts. Each state has its own laws on how punitive damages are awarded.
Non-economic and punitive damages are all subject to damage caps. Every state has different laws that set limits on damage rewards. Economic damages do not have limits to them, because they account for the actual monetary cost of the injury.
In Tennessee, non-economic damages are capped at $750,000 per the 2011 Tort Reform Act. In 2015 the caps were briefly overturned by the Circuit Court of Hamilton County when a judge ruled in Cain v. Clark that the caps limited the plaintiffs' constitutional rights. The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the ruling, but did not make a decision on the constitutionality of the caps.
Punitive damages in Tennessee are capped at double the amount of the economic and non-economic awards combined but cannot exceed $500,000.
Wrongful death cases and cases of severe injury, like amputation or paralysis, can have a higher cap of $1,000,000.
Determining Liability for an Injury
The plaintiff's own role in the injury is considered when awarding compensation. States have different laws dealing with contributory negligence, or the amount of negligence or fault that was the responsibility of the plaintiff. Contributory negligence and comparative fault laws limit the amount of compensation that can be awarded based on the plaintiff's role in the injury.
Tennessee uses a modified comparative fault system of liability, meaning that plaintiffs are barred from recovering any compensation if they are found to be more than 50% responsible for the injury. If the plaintiff is found to be less than 50% responsible, the damage compensation can be reduced by the percent of fault attributed to the plaintiff.
For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 20% responsible for a car accident that left her with $10,000 in medical bills, the plaintiff could be responsible for $2,000 of the damages, and the defendant would be responsible for the remaining $8,000.
In other states, the plaintiff can be barred from compensation if she was found to be even 1% liable for the injury.
Statute of Limitations
Plaintiffs have one year from the date of injury to file a personal injury claim or lose the right to collect compensation for the injury.
Tennessee Personal Injury Attorney
The Law Office of Luvell L. Glanton is skilled at getting injury victims the compensation they deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of another person's negligence or malice, call our office today at 615-244-4511 to schedule a free consultation.