Is There a Cap on Damages for Personal Injury Claims in Virginia? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

You may have heard of those injured in accidents receiving millions of dollars in compensation from the negligence of another party. While the amount of money you can expect to receive depends on the extent of your injuries, some states have caps on monetary damages. These are artificial limitations put in place by members of the state legislature. 

Virginia has statutory caps on damages in some cases, but not all. For example, if you or a loved one was hit by a drunk driver, there is generally no cap on the amount of damages you can recover, with the exception of a cap on punitive damages (also known as punishment damages). However, if you or a loved one was injured due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, there is a cap on damages overall. The medical malpractice damages cap is roughly $2.25 million and is set to increase steadily until 2031 when it reaches $3 million.

What Damages are Recoverable in a Personal Injury Case?

Economic damages include medical bills (past and present), lost wages and anything else that has a specific dollar amount attached to it. Non-economic damages cannot be calculated as easily. They include pain and suffering, future inconveniences, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and other things you endured as a result of your accident. A Virginia personal injury lawyer can help you place dollar amounts on all damages.

Damage Caps are Bad Policy

Damage caps came of age in the 1980s and 90s as a way to combat alleged “frivolous lawsuits and runaway juries.” States across the country began instituting statutory caps ond damages, especially in the field of medical malpractice law. These damage caps are bad public policy. For example, as mentioned, Virginia’s medical malpractice cap is around $2.25 million currently. This may seem like a lot of money at first blush. However, if you or a loved one suffered brain damage or paralysis due to a doctor’s negligence, your medical bills could quickly exceed $2.25 million. If your bills do exceed the cap, you are left to shoulder the burden of those expenses. This routinely results in families exhausting the funds they receive from a malpractice case, then turning to the state and federal government through Medicaid and Social Security Disability to try and defray the costs. In essence, damage caps shift the burden from the at-fault party to you, the American taxpayer.