My sister received a significant head injury in an automobile wreck caused when a truck crossed the centerline of a road in Tennessee. Is there a limit on the damages she can recover in the case?
There is no limit on the damages she can recover for medical expenses or loss of earning capacity. However, if the wreck occurred on or after October 1, 2012, there is a limit on the damages she can recover for pain, suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life – referred to by the Legislature as "non-economic damages." That limit is $750,000.
The Legislature has determined that no person can recover non-economic damages in excess of $750,000 unless the injury is "catastrophic" or the falls within a narrow class of exclusions (for example, the defendant was under the influence of alcohol). Shockingly, a brain injury is not considered a catastrophic loss by the Tennessee General Assembly. Even if an injury is determined to be catastrophic non-economic damages are limited to $1,000,000.
A constitutional challenge is expected to be made to this legislation. However, until the Tennessee Supreme Court hears a case where this issue is raised, judges and juries will be required to apply this law and limit recoveries accordingly.
John Day represents personal injury victims and families of wrongful death victims. He is board-certified as a civil trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and, in fact, served as President of the organization. He is an elected member of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. His book, "Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law," is used by judges and lawyers across Tennessee to further their understanding of personal injury and wrongful death law in Tennessee. In 2009, Best Lawyers named John "Best Personal Injury Lawyer" for Nashville; he was the first recipient of that award. Best Lawyers also named John as "Best Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Nashville" for 2010. John does not charge for an initial consultation and accepts personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingent fee basis. You can reach him by telephone at 615.742.4880 or by email by clicking here.