All across the country, more and more states are seeing legislatively imposed caps on noneconomic damages being challenged on constitutional grounds. Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, and Kansas, are just a few where constitutional challenges have been raised against the limitations that have been placed on a victim’s right to recover compensation for their pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
Ohio has enacted such caps, and they were found to be constitutional in the 2007 case of Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson (2007), 116 Ohio St.3d 468, 2007-Ohio-6948. So, although they may seem unfair, these noneconomic damages caps are here to say.
But what does it mean to say that noneconomic damages are capped? What is the difference between economic and noneconomic damages?
Economic damages compensate the victim for the quantifiable monetary losses that he or she suffered as a result of the injury such as medical bills, lost wages, and other “easy to add up” losses. The good news: there is no cap on the amount of “economic damages” available to Ohio injury victims.
Noneconomic damages compensate the victim for non-quantifiable losses such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress. The bad news is that because of the Ohio legislature and the Arbino case, there is an absolute cap on the amount of “non-economic damages” available to the plaintiff in Ohio.
The basic cap on noneconomic damages is the larger of (a) $250,000 or, (b) three times economic damages (subject to a maximum of $350,000 per plaintiff and a maximum of $500,000 per occurrence). These maximum amounts increase to $500,000 per plaintiff. There is no cap if the plaintiff has suffered a permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb, loss of a bodily organ system, or permanent physical injury that prevents the victim from being able to independently care for self and perform life sustaining activities.
For example, let’s say that you are the unfortunate victim of a car accident and your economic damages (medical bills and lost wages) add up to $50,000. Because you are potentially entitled to either (1) the larger of three times your economic damages (here, $150,000) subject to a $350,000 maximum, OR (2) $250,000, in this situation your non-economic damages would be capped at $250,000.
Continuing with this example, if your economic damages were $100,000, your non-economic damages would be capped at $300,000 (three times your economic damages).
Continuing further with this example, if your economic damages were $500,000, your non-economic damages would be capped at the $350,000 maximum.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that there is no cap if the plaintiff can meet the “permanent and substantial injury” threshold. Also, although these caps on noneconomic damages do not apply to cases brought under the wrongful death statute, they do limit recovery by a deceased victim’s estate for noneconomic damages that the decedent experienced prior to death.
For example, a number of noneconomic damages that a victim’s next of kin could recover for their own personal loss resulting from the victim’s death would not be subject to any caps if the case was filed as a “wrongful death” action. However, the amount of non-economic damages that the victim’s next of kin could recover on the victim’s behalf for the victim’s own personal pain and suffering experienced prior to death would be subject to the caps.
At our office, we regularly utilize the services of vocational experts and economists in order to prove the level of damages and lost wages in a given case. A vocational expert is an expert in the areas of vocational rehabilitation, vocational and earning capacity, lost earnings, the cost of replacement labor, and loss of ability to perform household services. An economist is an expert who applies theories and concepts from economics ranging from financial statement analysis, statistics, computational models, and mathematics. When analyzing catastrophic accident cases, the vocational expert identifies what the victim could have earned prior to the incident, compared to what the victim is likely to earn following the incident. The economic expert then comes into play and calculates the value of those earnings over time so that the difference between the two is clearly understood by the jury.
Our office has an excellent working relationship with some of the best vocational experts and economists in the state. Should you choose the Charles Boyk Law Offices, LLC to handle your accident claim, these experts will become an important part of your case and will help see to it that you get the compensation that you deserve.
Do not wait. Contact the Ohio injury attorneys at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC today at 419-241-1395 or toll-free at 1-800-637-8170.