Legislators Propose Capping Non-Economic Damages
Suffering an injury is never pleasant, but if the injury requires medical attention, the lasting effect is much more serious due to the financial cost and potential for permanent impairment. If the injury was caused by the action of another individual or entity, it is not right that the injured should be forced to shoulder the financial burden alone. Accordingly, most jurisdictions allow for recovery for costs, and retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney can be crucial to ensuring that this recovery is as great as possible. Reimbursement for medical bills, lost work time, and the like are relatively easy to prove and are known as economic damages. Additionally in some cases, recovery can be made for non-economic damages, which are less quantifiable, and include things such as pain and suffering. However, in an effort at tort reform the Florida House of Representatives is looking to cap non-economic damages. A discussion of this effort, as well as a more general understanding of non-economic damages, will follow below.
Florida House Bill 17
As stated above, the Florida House of Representatives, in an effort to curb excessive tort damages, is considering a bill which would limit the amount a jury can award for certain non-economic damages. More specifically, juries would not be permitted to award an amount in excess of $1,000,000 for the following types of injuries:
- Pain and suffering;
- Physical impairment;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of capacity for enjoyment of life;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of a decedent’s companionship and protection; and
- Lost parental companionship, instruction and guidance.
What are Non-Economic Damages?
To truly understand the reasoning behind the Legislature’s consideration, it is important to understand what non-economic damages are. Generally, non-economic damages are moneys awarded to a plaintiff to cover the intangible negative impact of his/her injuries. For example, awarding money for medical bills would be providing a plaintiff with economic damages. Awarding money to a plaintiff for the lost enjoyment of life (meaning that, due to the injury, the victim is not able to, for example, hike in the woods for an extended period of time) would be a non-economic damage.
The primary issue in awarding non-economic damages is that they are not easily quantifiable. In other words, such damages are not based on reimbursement for an invoice, much like damages for medical expenses would be. This is because these damages are difficult to measure because the experience is subjective, truly based on a case-by-case situation, and there is no universal standard of measurement. Accordingly, courts often instruct juries to use their best judgment in deciding the amount of non-economic damages to award a plaintiff, and various factors a jury can use to assign a value to this type of damage includes the following:
- The severity of the injury;
- The potential for ongoing consequences;
- The age of the plaintiff;
- Whether the plaintiff had pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by the injury; and
- The amount of economic loss suffered.
Accordingly, due to its highly subjective nature, the Legislature is attempting to curb excessive awards, noting that these awards result in much higher insurance costs for individuals, as insurance companies, who would normally be obligated to pay the awards, merely pass these costs down, ultimately, to their insureds.
Seek Legal Advice
If you or someone you love recently suffered an injury due to the action or inaction of another individual, and you are curious as to how you can be compensated for the injury, as well as any non-economic damages, contact the attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. Pain and suffering and related damages are hard to prove, but years of experience at our Miami personal injury firm will help you achieve the best possible outcome. In light of this possible law, time is definitely of the essence to take action. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.