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Is There a Limit on Damages in Tennessee?

September 14, 2023

The Tennessee non-economic damages cap places a limit on the amount of compensation you can receive for issues like pain and suffering, emotional duress, and quality of life changes. It does not impact quantifiable expenses, such as medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, or lost wages. Understanding these caps can help you determine what compensation you may be entitled to in a personal injury claim.

Call The Haynes Firm at 423-928-0165 to schedule a complimentary consultation at our Johnson City office. We will carefully review your claim, assess your damages, and help you determine what your case may be worth.

What Types of Damages Can I Seek in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In Tennessee, personal injury damages are divided into three primary categories:

Economic Damages

Economic damages, also known as “special damages,” are tangible and quantifiable financial losses incurred as a result of the injury. They are intended to compensate for actual monetary losses, and may include:

  • Medical Bills. This includes all medical expenses related to the injury, such as hospital stays, surgeries, medication, therapy, and ongoing treatment.
  • Lost Wages. If the injury prevents you from working, you may be entitled to compensation for lost income during the recovery period. If you cannot work going forward, loss of earning capacity can be compensated as well.
  • Rehabilitation Expenses. This covers costs related to physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other rehabilitation programs needed to restore physical abilities.
  • Property Damage. If your personal property was damaged in the incident, you might be reimbursed for repair or replacement costs.

Economic damages may also include things like home modifications and assistive technologies required to adapt to new physical limitations.

There are no caps on economic damages in Tennessee.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more subjective. They are intended to compensate for non-financial losses such as:

  • Physical Pain. This considers the amount of current and ongoing physical pain endured as a result of the injury.
  • Emotional Distress. This includes things like anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD, and other mental health issues that often accompany serious injury.
  • Loss of Companionship/Consortium. This may include a loss of both physical and emotional support from family and loved ones.
  • Quality of Life. Long-term or permanent reductions in your quality of life, such as disability or disfigurement.

The Tennessee non-economic damages cap limits the amount of general damages you can receive. This can have a significant impact on the total compensation you are awarded.

Punitive Damages

Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which are designed to compensate the victim, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for particularly reckless or malicious behavior. These might apply in cases involving:

  • Willful Misconduct. The defendant’s actions were purposeful, with the intent to harm.
  • Gross Negligence. The defendant’s disregard for the safety of others went well beyond ordinary negligence, showing a complete lack of care.
  • Fraud or Deceit. The defendant engaged in fraudulent actions or intentional deception.

Punitive damages, like special damages, are capped in Tennessee.

What Is the Tennessee Non-Economic Damages Cap?

In Tennessee, the non-economic damages cap was enacted as part of the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011. The primary purpose of this cap is to limit the amount of non-economic damages that a plaintiff can receive in a civil lawsuit, especially in cases involving personal injury, medical malpractice, or wrongful death.

The Tennessee non-economic damages cap is:

  • $750,000 Per Person. For most cases, non-economic damages in Tennessee personal injury claims are capped at $750,000 per person. Even if a jury awards a higher amount, something that occasionally happens, the court will reduce it to fit within this cap.
  • $1 Million Per Person. In cases of catastrophic injury, the cap is raised to $1 million. Catastrophic injuries are generally considered those that are life-altering and permanent, such as severe spinal cord injuries, severe burns, traumatic brain injury, amputation, or the wrongful death of a parent (see Tennessee Code § 29-39-102).

Tennessee Code § 29-39-104 also places a cap on punitive damages in personal injury claims at $500,000 or two times compensatory damages, whichever is lower. However, the cap on punitive damages may sometimes be lifted when the defendant’s behavior was particularly egregious.

The Benefits of Having a Personal Injury Lawyer

One of the biggest advantages of hiring a personal injury lawyer is their in-depth understanding of complex legal frameworks, such as the Tennessee non-economic damages cap. These laws often involve intricate nuances that can be challenging to navigate without professional help. A personal injury lawyer can interpret the statutes relevant to your situation, ensuring that you fully understand your rights and the compensation you are entitled to.

In addition to legal knowledge and guidance, a personal injury attorney can offer:

Comprehensive Case Management

Personal injury lawyers manage every aspect of a case, from collecting evidence to filling out paperwork and dealing with insurance companies. They ensure that deadlines are met and that all necessary documentation is accurately completed and submitted on time. This comprehensive case management allows you to focus on recovery rather than legal details.

Settlement Negotiation

An experienced personal injury lawyer will possess strong negotiation skills, allowing them to communicate effectively with insurance companies and opposing lawyers. Their ability to present compelling arguments and evidence can lead to more favorable settlement agreements. By negotiating on your behalf, an attorney can often secure higher compensation for your injuries and losses.

Court Representation

Having a lawyer represent you is very important if your case ends up going to trial. They can build a strong case, gather evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and deliver compelling arguments in the courtroom.

Emotional Support and Guidance

A personal injury lawyer not only offers legal assistance but also provides emotional support and guidance throughout the process. They can help you make informed decisions and alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that can accompany legal battles.

The Johnson City personal injury lawyers at The Haynes Firm have decades of experience helping victims of serious injury get fair and full compensation. We are prepared to take cases as far as needed to ensure the most favorable results.

How Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Get Paid?

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This fee structure means that your lawyer only gets paid if they win your case.

A contingency fee is typically a predetermined percentage of the settlement or award. The percentage may vary depending on the complexity of your case, but should be clearly laid out in a written agreement between you and your lawyer. There should not be any surprises at the conclusion of your case.

While a contingency fee does not necessarily cover court costs, some lawyers will advance filing fees, expert witness fees, administrative costs, and similar expenses while the case is ongoing. These are reimbursed to the attorney from the settlement or award if the case is won.

The contingency fee structure allows you access to legal representation without having to pay upfront. This helps to level the playing field at a time when medical expenses and other losses may be compounding. It also allows you to focus on recovering physically while your attorney handles the legalities of your claim.

At The Haynes Firm, our compassionate Johnson City personal injury lawyers take all cases on a contingency basis. During your FREE consultation, we will discuss our fee structure to ensure you understand the details.

The Haynes Firm Is Here to Help

The Tennessee non-economic damages cap can complicate the process of seeking fair compensation. The Haynes Firm is here to help. Our experienced attorneys have leveraged their knowledge and skills both in and out of the courtroom to secure some of the region’s most substantial settlements and verdicts. We are here to listen to your story, conduct a thorough assessment of your damages, and help you understand the true value of your claim.

To schedule your cost-and-obligation-FREE consultation at our Johnson City office, please contact The Haynes Firm today. Our personal injury lawyers serve Greeneville, Boone, Kingsport, and all surrounding areas of Tennessee.

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