A key question by many plaintiffs during personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits is how much they may be able to obtain through their causes of action. Understanding the value of a damage award can be important for a family in planning its future. In some states, statutory damage caps limit the total amount of financial recovery a plaintiff could receive through a civil claim. In Arizona, however, no such cap exists. Damage caps are unconstitutional in the State of Arizona.
What is a Damage Cap?
A damage cap is a statutory limit on the amount of damages a claimant can receive. It is a law setting a maximum on a settlement or judgment award. In states without caps, a jury can award however much it thinks is appropriate based on the facts of the case and the victim’s damages. In states with damage caps, a plaintiff cannot obtain more than the state’s cap. The jury may only award an amount up to the state’s legal maximum, with rare exceptions.
Most states with damage caps do not apply them to total damages. Instead, caps only exist on certain types of damages. The most common damages with caps are punitive and noneconomic. Punitive damages serve to punish a defendant by forcing him or her to pay an additional amount to the plaintiff for wanton disregard, recklessness or gross negligence. Noneconomic damages compensate a victim for intangible losses such as pain and suffering. Some states only apply caps to specific types of claims, such as medical malpractice or cases against the government. In rare cases, states may have damage caps on total awards rather than only some categories. No state currently caps economic damages.
Arizona Does Not Have a Damage Cap
Arizona does not enforce any damage caps. Many states have ruled damage caps unconstitutional. Arizona is one of them. Enforcing damage caps would go directly against Article 2, Section 31 of the state’s constitution. This statute prohibits any law that would limit the amount of damages recoverable for causing the death or injury of any person. With this decree in its constitution, Arizona does not have any laws imposing recovery limits or damage caps.
Arizona does, however, exempt plaintiffs from recovering punitive damages during cases against public entities or public employees (Arizona Revised Statute 12-820.04). Cases that name public entities or the government as defendants will not end in punitive damages. Other cases do not have an official punitive damage cap, but a precedent set by State Farm v. Campbell maintains that a ratio exceeding 9:1 in punitive damages to compensatory damages is unconstitutional.
In general, the courts in Arizona cannot reduce your recovery award during a personal injury case by means of a statewide damage cap. Instead, you can receive whatever amount the jury deems reasonable and necessary to compensate you for your losses. This amount can depend on factors such as the seriousness of your injuries, how long they will take to heal, the costs of your medical bills, your age and your income. It is up to your personal injury attorney to maximize your compensation through aggressive legal strategies.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Maximize Your Recovery Damages
With no cap on damages in Arizona, the amount you receive can vary according to the skill of your lawyer. Compensable damages during an injury claim in Arizona include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damages, out-of-pocket expenses, and punitive damages. A lawyer can help you get the most from your claim in Arizona by using proven strategies during insurance settlement negotiations. A lawyer could also take your injury claim to trial if that will potentially result in better recovery. Work with an attorney if you wish to take advantage of Arizona’s lack of damage caps to maximize your financial recovery.