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General Concepts of Injury Law

What are “damage caps”?

You have probably heard on TV and in the news about federal and state legislative attempts to pass “tort reform.” Most proposed legislation under the guise of “tort reform” are variations of some sort of attempt either to limit the type of claims that can be made under certain circumstances (such as limits on class action lawsuits), or are attempts to limit the amount of damages recovered under certain circumstances (such as proposals to limit the damages awarded in claims against doctors and medical malpractice lawsuits). Most of these efforts have had dramatic impact on the ability of a plaintiff or injured party to be fairly compensated for injuries sustained through no fault of their own.

As of this writing, a nationalized “damage cap” has not passed or become law at the federal level although bills have been proposed. However, during the 1990s, Kansas and a host of other states passed state legislation which severely limits the amount of recovery on personal injury claims in Kansas, notwithstanding the fact that there is, as of this date, no federal law or federal counterpart to the state damage limits.

Generally speaking, under Kansas statute K.S.A. 60-19a02, in any personal injury action, the total amount recoverable by each party from all defendants for all claims for noneconomic loss shall not exceed a sum total of $250,000. Additionally, if a jury enters a verdict award for an amount in excess of $250,000 for noneconomic loss, the court is required under Kansas law to reduce that verdict to a judgment of $250,000 for all of the party’s claims for noneconomic loss.

So, for example, let’s say that you are catastrophically injured as a result of a car wreck and that car wreck resulted in double amputations. Let’s further assume that a jury decided that your case was worth $2 million for all of your pain and suffering, mental anguish and disfigurement resulting from that car accident. Under the Kansas “damage caps” described above, that $2 million verdict would be reduced to $250,000 for all of your noneconomic damages, including the amputations.

In addition to auto accidents and truck accidents, “damage caps” exist under Kansas law for medical malpractice claims, nursing home negligence cases, wrongful death claims and survival actions.