Damage Caps and the Limits on Personal Injury Awards

In June, an Oklahoma jury awarded $14,000,000 to an injured man who lost his arm while operating a crane within the course and scope of his employment. $9,000,000 was awarded for economic damages, and $5,000,000 was awarded for non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering). The jury was shocked when the judge announced that the award was reduced from $14,000,000, to $9,350,000. What the jury was not aware of, was that all civil actions filed in the state of Oklahoma after November 1, 2011, have a non-economic damages cap of $350,000, when a defendant’s liability is found to be neither grossly negligent nor intentional.

When a jury is specifically asked to determine the amount of a claimant’s economic and non-economic damages, the cap on non-economic damages is withheld from the jury. This information is purposefully withheld solely to prevent the jury from overcompensating the claimant’s economic damages to offset the reduction in non-economic damages. Critics argue that if we can allow a jury to decide sentencing an individual to death in criminal cases, the jury should be allowed to decide how much to award the injured claimant.

Damages caps are laws that limit the amount of non-economic damages that may be awarded for a case. As of now, each state has its own damages cap. Oklahoma is not the only state to cap non-economic damages. Texas and many other states have capped non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Some states have found that non-economic damages caps are unconstitutional for medical malpractices cases and more are expected to follow. Until then, claimants are limited in their recovery for non-economic damages in personal injury cases.

Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, Texas. For over 65 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. For more information, please contact the office of Benny Agosto, Jr. at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, by letter at 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713) 222-7211.