In an effort to control what some legislators and insurance companies considered to be out-of-control damage awards in personal injury cases, many states have placed caps on the maximum amount a victim can be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. As a Kansas City law firm, we represent clients in both Kansas and Missouri and, as the laws differ in each state, we want our clients to be aware of what the caps are in each state.
What Are Damages?
When a person is seriously injured or killed in a car crash caused by the negligence of another driver, the victim or his family is entitled to financial compensation in an effort to “make the person whole.” The amount of this compensation, known as damages, often becomes the basis of lawsuits and litigation. What the victim feels he needs to be made whole often varies from what the insurance company for the at-fault party thinks is reasonable. When a person is seriously injured, there are many repercussions—both direct financial loss and emotional suffering. Because there is no way to compensate a person for emotional suffering other than with a financial award, an attempt is made to make up for both types of losses through a financial settlement. The two types of damages are:
- Economic. These damages are often very clear-cut. Economic damages include medical bills, lost wages, and any other out-of-pocket expenses associated with the accident. While most economic damages can be easily demonstrated by presenting hospital bills for treatment, deciding on a fair settlement can be complicated when injuries are catastrophic or permanently disabling. In these situations, the attorney for the plaintiff will make the best estimate of future cost of care, including life-long rehabilitation or nursing home care.
- Non-economic. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship and consortium, and wrongful death. Obviously, there is no easy way to put a price tag on these types of damages, but the attorney for the victim will do his best to force the at-fault party to pay the maximum possible amount.
In both Kansas and Missouri, there is no cap on economic damages for personal injury victims. However, when it comes to non-economic damages, there are limitations.
Caps in Missouri
When a person suffers serious injury in a car, motorcycle, or semi-truck crash in Missouri, there is no cap on the amount he or she may be awarded for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages. These means that the attorney for the victim can pursue as much money as the victim and the victim’s family think is reasonable to compensate for the emotional losses they have suffered. The only exception in Missouri is a cap of $350,000 for medical malpractice wrongful death claims.
Caps in Kansas
It is a different story in Kansas, where there are caps on every type of non-economic damage. Kansas had a cap of $250,000 for pain and suffering resulting from car, motorcycle, and semi-truck accidents, as well as general wrongful death claims. However, due to the passage of a law during the 2014 legislative session to gradually increase non-economic damage caps, caps in Kansas have been increasing and will continue to increase as follows:
- Accidents occurring between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2018: $300,000
- Accidents occurring between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2022: $325,000
- Accidents occurring after June 30, 2022: $350,000
It is important to understand that caps are just that—these are the maximum amounts you can be awarded for pain and suffering, not a guaranteed amount. In other words, while your attorney will try to attain the maximum allowable settlement amount, it is not a given that you will be awarded the cap amount.
Have You Been Injured In A Kansas City Area Car Accident?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.