tennessee personal injury compensation

Understanding Tennessee's Cap on Certain Damages in Personal Injury Cases

If you have been in an accident caused by another person's negligence, you may be entitled to recover compensation in a personal injury action. There are several different types of recoverable damages and the amount a victim can receive may depend on various factors. But the compensation you may be eligible to recover is not unlimited. Tennessee law places caps on certain types of damages, including those for pain and suffering.

There are two categories of damages that may be awarded in a personal injury case: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages include the following monetary losses resulting from an accident:

  • Medical expenses — Costs associated with hospital stays, emergency room treatment, office visits, surgeries, physical therapy and other forms of treatment
  • Past lost wages — Compensation for the lost wages suffered due to accident-related injuries
  • Future lost earnings — Anticipated lost wages due to the plaintiff being no longer able to work at full capacity
  • Property damage — Costs of repair or replacement of a vehicle and of any personal property damaged in the accident
  • Out-of-pocket costs — Any other costs incurred in connection with the accident

While all provable economic damages can be recovered, there are limits on non-economic damages. These consist of compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, disfigurement and other persistent discomfort resulting from the plaintiff's physical injuries.

Under Tennessee law, only up to $750,000 in non-economic damages are usually recoverable. However, there are exceptions to this general rule:

  • The cap on non-economic damages does not apply in cases where the defendant intentionally injured the plaintiff, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or destroyed evidence to evade liability.
  • A plaintiff who sustained a catastrophic injury may be entitled to non-economic damages up to $1,000,000. The law defines a "catastrophic" loss or injury as paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation of the hands or feet or third-degree burns covering 40 percent of the body. This higher cap also applies in a wrongful death case on behalf of a surviving minor child of the victim.

The cap on non-economic damages is cumulative. If multiple defendants are responsible for a plaintiff's injuries, the total damages will be apportioned among them, based on their percentage of fault for the accident. But the total cannot exceed the statutory cap.

If you were injured due to someone else's negligence, a skilled personal injury attorney can help you recover the maximum compensation available. Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, P.C. (and its predecessors) has been representing accident victims in Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City and throughout Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia for over 110 years. With an office in Bristol, we also offer hospital and home visits. Call 423-797-6022 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.