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What are Damages Caps?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 04, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When you win a lawsuit, you may think you'll be getting the full amount of the jury award - but be aware, many states have enacted damages caps that might limit the amount of damages that you receive. What are damages caps, anyway?

Say you have a claim against a doctor who may have been negligent in providing you care. This means you might have a medical malpractice claim.

Medical malpractice claims originate from when a medical professional or health-care provider deviates from the standard of practice used in the field and fails to reasonably care for their patient.

Essentially, medical malpractice claims are usually for injuries or wrongful death as a result of the doctor's negligence. And, many states have capped how much plaintiffs can recover from these claims.

Different states have enacted different damages caps, and how much you can recover will vary widely depending on your state.

And, some states don't have damages caps at all.

Damages caps are often different for the different types of damages that a jury can award. For example, plaintiffs can be awarded the cost of medical care or other economic damages suffered as a result of the injuries. Plaintiffs can also be awarded with punitive damages.

Are you still wondering what exactly are damages caps? They can be for punitive damages only, or they can extend to all damages.

In essence, states have enacted damages caps because some believe that without a damages cap juries might award excessive amounts of damages. Medical professionals often believe that high damages awards for plaintiffs actually results in higher costs in medical care, and will make healthcare more time-consuming as well.

Some states do not permit attorneys to inform the jury of the damages cap in essence of fairness. As a result, the jury could award a higher amount than the damages cap, but then the jury award will then be reduced down to the level that is mandated by law.

So, judges can cut jury awards down to the damages cap. Or, in certain situations, judges can cut jury awards even without a damages cap if they believe that the damages awarded are excessive or too high.

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