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Blogs from March, 2022

Counting dollar bills

Personal injury claimants should be given as much compensation as they need to recover from their injuries and feel like justice was served. But just because everyone agrees with this statement, that doesn’t mean that you can get an unlimited amount of compensation or just any amount that seems good. All states have caps on certain damages that a personal injury claimant or plaintiff can collect, and North Carolina is no exception.

In North Carolina, the non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases and punitive damages in most case types can be capped. On the other hand, economic damages in virtually any case type cannot be capped.

What is a Non-Economic Damage?

A non-economic damage is a damage related to your emotional distress, physical pain, and lessened enjoyment of life. In other words, it is a damage that is not tangible and cannot be easily recorded with a bill, receipt, paystub, etc.

In most cases, non-economic damages are not capped, so the injured party’s attorney can argue for any amount that seems to fairly reflect what their client has been through. But non-economic damages in North Carolina medical malpractice cases are capped at $500,000. However, even this damage cap can be lifted by a judge’s discretion if the claimant was permanently disabled or disfigured by a medical provider who acted with “wanton recklessness or gross negligence.”

What is a Punitive Damage?

A punitive damage is an additional damage that a judge can approve to further penalize the defendant for inexcusable or criminal wrongdoing. North Carolina law usually caps punitive damages at 300% of any compensatory damages paid to the claimant, or at $250,000, whichever is higher. For clarification, compensatory damages are both economic damages and non-economic damages.

For example, you are hit by a motorist going 75 mph in a suburban area. You suffer serious injuries and incur $100,000 in economic and non-economic damages. The judge ruling your case – assuming it does not settle – can approve $250,000 in punitive damages to penalize the driver, which is the maximum amount allowed in most cases. However, punitive damages are not covered by insurance policies, so they are not imposed when a court thinks the defendant cannot possibly afford to pay them out of their own finances.

What is an Economic Damage?

The last form of damage is economic damage, which relates to medical bills and lost wages in a personal injury claim. North Carolina does not cap economic damages in any case. There is no cap because economic damages are financial losses you have already experienced, so it is only fair to get a chance to return to your pre-injury financial situation through a claim or lawsuit. That is to say, you are not “getting ahead” if you get paid your full amount of economic damages, so there is no reason for them to be capped.

For more questions about damage caps in a North Carolina personal injury case, you can click here to contact Payne Law Firm. Our attorneys handle cases across the state and for clients who have been injured in all types of accidents and situations.