When filing a personal injury claim, you should be entitled to compensation for every penny you had to spend and every penny you lost because of the injuries you faced. If someone else was at fault for your injuries, they should be the one to pay for damages. However, there are sometimes caps that apply to these claims.
In Mississippi, there are caps on non-economic damages like pain and suffering. In most injury cases, this cap is $1 million, but for medical malpractice claims, it is $500,000. Punitive damages are also capped at various levels depending on the defendant’s status. If insurance is involved, claims might also be practically capped by policy limits, and lawsuits against the government also face a damage cap.
To have our Mississippi personal injury lawyers review your case for free, call Howe Law today at (844) 876-4357.
Are There Caps on Economic Damages in a Mississippi Injury Lawsuit?
With some exceptions, there are no general caps on the economic damages you can claim in a personal injury lawsuit in Mississippi. This means that our Hattiesburg personal injury attorneys can help you seek full compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other monetary damages you faced because of an accident.
However, there are some practical limitations, especially when it comes to insurance limits. If you are claiming damages for a car accident or an accident on someone’s property, then their car insurance or their homeowners’ insurance might have an upper limit. In many cases, the defendant will not be able to afford damages beyond this amount. However, if the individual defendant or company has other money beyond what their insurance will cover, we may be able to reach beyond their policy and have the court order them to pay out of pocket for these additional expenses. In some cases, the property can also be “attached” and sold off to pay for the remaining damages.
There is also a cap on damages in lawsuits against the government, with claims after July 1st, 2001 capped at $500,000 in damages under Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-15.
What Are the Caps for Pain and Suffering in Mississippi?
In Mississippi injury cases, there are caps on non-economic damages. These damages include pain and suffering, putting a limit on how much you can claim in your injury case. As these damages can sometimes make up the most expensive part of your injury case, these caps can sometimes be a nuisance to injury victims.
Under Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-60, there is a cap set on non-economic damages for all personal injury cases and a separate, lower cap for medical malpractice cases. The standard cap that applies to all injury claims is $1 million for non-economic damages. While this does not limit how much you can claim overall in your injury case (as it does not limit other compensatory damages for things like expenses and bills), it does indeed limit damages for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, emotional distress, and certain other damages.
The lower cap for medical malpractice cases is $500,000.
One interesting thing about these caps is that the jury does not get instructions about this cap. That means that they are free to assign a value to your pain and suffering that is as high as they want to go. It is then up to the judge to apply this cap and reduce damages down to the maximum if the jury voted to award you more than $1 million (or $500,000 in a medical malpractice case).
There is a question in Mississippi law as to whether these caps are permissible under the state constitution. Courts have ruled that they are not, in fact, constitutional, but because those cases were ultimately settled instead of using the jury award, there has not been an effective ruling on the matter. Many states have indeed struck down similar caps under their own constitutions.
What Are the Caps on Punitive Damages in Mississippi?
Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are not awarded to compensate the victim for what happened. Instead, their purpose is to punish the defendant and potentially deter that defendant from repeating the same mistakes – and to more broadly deter other people and corporations in similar situations from committing similar mistakes. Mississippi limits these damages in a few different ways.
Limits on When Punitive Damages Are Allowed
The first limitation on punitive damages is that they are not available in every injury case. Punitive damages can only be awarded when the defendant is shown to have had “actual malice” or to have committed “gross negligence.” Gross negligence is specifically defined by statute in this situation to mean that the actions were “willful” or “wanton” or done recklessly, without regard for other peoples’ safety.
This willfulness or gross negligence must be proven through “clear and convincing evidence” – which is a heightened standard compared to the “more likely than not” standard used in injury cases (known as the a “preponderance of the evidence” standard). This is a relatively high burden to meet, but not as high as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal cases.
Additional Procedural Hurdles
Before punitive damages can be paid, there are some additional procedural steps to be met. For example, the jury must decide other damages first, then decide whether punitive damages are allowed. This prevents juries from getting around the caps by awarding additional compensation for medical bills or other economic damages instead of punitive damages. There must also be a separate hearing on punitive damages and their amount.
Caps Based on Defendant’s Wealth
Because punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant, they are not based on the victim and the harm they received. Instead, the damages must be awarded in an amount that is sufficient to make the defendant feel the effects of having to pay punitives – but not so much as to be unjustifiable. Because of this, Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-65(3)(a) analyzes caps based on the defendant’s net worth.
For defendants worth $50 million or less, the cap is 2% of their net worth. For particularly wealthy individuals and for businesses, their net worth is likely to exceed this amount, and separate caps are set for various wealth ranges. For example, for defendants worth over $500 million up to $750 million, the cap on punitive damages is $5 million. Full information can be found under § 11-1-65(3)(a).
Call Howe Law’s Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyers Today
For help with your injury case, call (844) 876-4357 to speak with Howe Law’s Jackson, MS personal injury attorney in a free case review.