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What To Know: Damage Caps In California

August 24, 2022 Personal injury

The goal in any personal injury case is to recover damages that fully and fairly compensate an injured person, and usually in the maximum amount possible. In some cases, California law sets a cap on the amount of money that a person may recover, which can impact litigation strategy and a plaintiff’s expectations when considering whether to file a personal injury lawsuit. 

In this blog post, we’ll provide information about these damage caps and how they may affect your claim, and how an accident attorney in San Diego can help. 

Limits on Monetary Damages in California Personal Injury Lawsuits

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A damage cap is a set amount of money that represents the maximum amount a plaintiff can recover in a lawsuit. 

In California, a damage cap exists in personal injury cases, but it only applies to medical malpractice claims, and it limits non-economic damages to $250,000 in medical malpractice cases.

Non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases include pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of quality of life. Economic damages, which are not affected by the damage cap, would include lost wages for time off work and future time lost in earning potential. Additionally, punitive damages are not affected by the damage cap, which apply in medical malpractice cases when a doctor’s conduct is especially negligent or reckless. 

Limits on Monetary Damages in Car Accident Cases 

Under California law, damage caps also exist on non-economic damages in car crash cases, which would include any damages that are not medical expenses, damage to your car, or lost wages. 

First, a driver who is convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) cannot recover non-economic damages, in any amount, in a lawsuit stemming from the accident where he or she was driving under the influence, even if they were not at fault in the accident. 

Second, the owner of an uninsured vehicle cannot recover non-economic damages, with one exception for damages caused by another driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Third, uninsured drivers cannot recover any non-economic damages in any case involving a car, stemming from a collision or not. This rule stems from a 1996 ballot proposition called the Personal Responsibility Act, which sought to incentivize Californians to carry car insurance. 

What Types of Cases Have No Damage Caps in California? 

With all of this being said, most personal injury lawsuits in California have no damage cap, including car accident cases brought by an insured party, products liability cases, premises liability cases, and any other non-medical malpractice personal injury case.

California’s damage caps should not deter you from exploring your options, even if you are affected by a damage cap. As previously stated, the caps only apply to non-economic damages, meaning that a fair amount of compensation can be obtained within the caps – including lost wages, damage to property, medical expenses, and loss of future earning potential. 

All in all, navigating California’s damage caps can be complex, and so the best way to ensure that you’re fully informed is by getting in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Diego. Our team is ready to assist you – contact us today.