The Oklahoma Constitution prohibits caps on noneconomic damages in wrongful death lawsuits, and in 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a cap on noneconomic damages in personal injury lawsuits is also unconstitutional.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff is trying to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The economic damages the plaintiff is seeking are past and future medical expenses and past and future lost income. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff is a close family member of the victim, and the plaintiff aims to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the victim’s death. The economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit are to cover funeral expenses and medical expenses the victim incurred because of the injuries that eventually proved fatal, as well as for financial support that the victim would have provided to the plaintiff if not for the accident caused by the defendant. In both personal injury and wrongful death cases, plaintiffs may also seek noneconomic damages, and in light of a 2019 Oklahoma Supreme Court decision, there is no limit to the amount in damages, there is no limit to the amount in damages that plaintiffs can seek. To find out more, contact an Oklahoma City personal injury lawyer.
What are Non-Economic Damages?
Non-economic damages are sometimes part of the money that the court orders the defendant to pay to the plaintiff in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Whereas the economic damages (medical expenses, funeral expenses, and lost income) directly reimburse the plaintiff for financial losses they suffered due to the defendant’s negligence, noneconomic damages are meant to compensate for the ways that the defendant’s negligence negatively impacted the plaintiff’s quality of life in ways that do not have a dollar amount. In a personal injury lawsuit, the noneconomic damages might be to compensate the plaintiff for having to live with chronic pain and memory loss or for the loss of the ability to walk, see, or speak. In wrongful death lawsuits, the noneconomic damages compensate the plaintiff for the loss of the victim’s companionship. Therefore, noneconomic damages are also sometimes called pain and suffering.
Beason v. I.E. Miller Services, Inc.
Todd Beason was injured when a boom fell off of a crane and hit him; he eventually had part of his arm amputated. Beason sued the company that was operating the crane; in addition to economic damages, the court awarded $5 million in noneconomic damages to Beason and $1 million in noneconomic damages to his wife. The defendants appealed, citing a $350 damages cap on noneconomic damages in cases involving non-fatal injuries; therefore, the court reduced the noneconomic damages to $350,000 each for Beason and his wife. In 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on the case and declared the damages cap unconstitutional. It reasoned that the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits damages caps in wrongful death cases and that the courts should not treat people harmed by fatal accidents differently from people harmed by non-fatal accidents when awarding non-economic damages.
Contact BDIW Law About Noneconomic Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits
A personal injury lawyer can help you collect economic and noneconomic damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Contact BDIW Law in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma or call (405) 886-9660.