When you’re hurt in a personal injury accident in Nevada, you want to get everything that you deserve to help you rebuild your life. That means totaling all of the damages that you may qualify for and asking for fair compensation.
However, you may be surprised to learn that there are damage caps in some types of Nevada injury cases. It’s important to speak with your personal injury lawyer to determine whether a damage cap applies in your case. Here’s what you need to know about damage caps in injury cases.
What Are Damage Caps?
Damage caps are a limit on the amount of damages that a victim can recover for their losses. Even if the victim has damages that exceed the limit in a given category, a victim can only recover up to the limit. It’s the Nevada legislature that determined when caps apply and what the limits are.
In theory, the purpose of damage caps is to reduce the costs of litigation in order to lower costs and expenses for all of us. But damage caps are controversial especially for the accident victims who rely on the Nevada legal system for a fair recovery after an injury. There are three types of damage caps in Nevada cases:
- Cases against government employees
- Pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases
- Punitive damages in most types of cases
Each type of damage cap operates with slightly different rules to limit a victim’s recovery after an accident.
Damage Caps in Cases Against Government Employees
Perhaps the harshest category of damage caps is the cap in cases against government employees. If you’re hurt by a government employee, you can collect up to $100,000 for your claim. That’s it.
It doesn’t matter if your damages are ten times greater than $100,000. The $100,000 damage cap is all that you can recover for your losses. Nevada Revised Statute 41.035 is the law that sets the limit for cases against government employees. In addition to the general damage cap, there are no punitive damages available in a case against a government employee.
The employee must be acting within the scope of their official duties
When an accident claim involves a government employee, the cap only applies if the government employee is acting in the course of their official duties when the accident occurs. If you’re suing someone who happens to be a government employee for things that had nothing to do with their employment, the rules for government-employee cases don’t apply. You bring the case as you would bring a case against any private individual. The government-employee cap applies when you’re suing a government employee for acts that occur during their official duties.
No limits in other types of cases
There are no limits to compensatory damages in any other type of case. There’s no limit to the amount that you can claim for your financial losses including things like medical bills, car repairs, and lost wages. In all cases except government-employee cases, you can recover fully for all of your financial losses.
Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases
In medical malpractice cases, some limitations apply to damages for pain and suffering. While you can recover for the full amount of your direct financial losses, a limit of $350,000 for pain and suffering applies.
Also, the $350,000 limit applies collectively to all of the victims or damages in an entire course of treatment. If a treatment provider made multiple mistakes or if there are multiple victims, $350,000 is the limit that applies for all claims that arise from a single episode.
Caps on Punitive Damages
All Nevada personal injury cases impose a cap on punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages that are meant to punish defendants for appalling behavior like fraud, malice or conscious disregard for the safety of others. Nevada Revised Statute 42.005 creates a cap on these types of damages.
Under Nevada law, the amount of punitive damages that you can recover depends on the amount of your compensatory damages. If your compensatory damages are less than $100,000, you can recover three times the amount of your compensatory damages. For example, if your compensatory damages are $80,000, you can recover three times the $80,000 amount or $240,000.
If your compensatory damages are more than $100,000, you can collect up to three times your compensatory damages as punitive damages. For example, if your compensatory damages are $250,000, you can recover an additional $750,000 in punitive damages. It’s still up to the jury to decide whether to award punitive damages and how much to award. Also, punitive damages are not available in cases against public employees.
Legal Challenges to Damage Caps
Victims have tried to mount legal challenges to damage caps. The Nevada Supreme Court heard one of these challenges in the Tam v. Eighth Judicial District Court case in 2015. In that case, a lower court threw out damage caps in medical malpractice cases. A physician appealed the lower court’s decision and asked the Nevada Supreme Court to enforce the medical malpractice pain and suffering caps.
The Nevada Supreme Court agreed to uphold the damage caps. The Court said that they start by presuming that a law is constitutional. They say that the legislature should be allowed to decide whether to impose damage caps in personal injury cases. The Court concluded that the victim’s constitutional rights are protected because it’s still up to the jury to decide whether the victim deserves punitive damages even if they don’t get to determine the amount that they receive.
Nevada’s ruling on damage caps is similar to California’s decision on the same issue. Both states say that damage caps are constitutional. However, the State of Florida ruled differently. In the McCall v. United States case, Florida courts ruled that damage caps violate constitutional rights to equal protection under the law. While Nevada allows for damage caps, the State of Florida says that damage caps are arbitrary.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
An experienced lawyer can help you understand when damage caps apply to your case. They can help you understand your rights under Nevada law, and they can help you determine how to maximize your compensation after an accident. Your attorney can also help you build your case in a way that proves the other side is responsible for your losses.