The Kansas Supreme Court recently ruled that the state’s cap on damages for noneconomic injuries in personal injury lawsuits is unconstitutional (). In a 4-2 decision, the court found that legislative limits on noneconomic damages such as pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life violate the right to a jury trial under the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution.
The case involved a woman who was injured in a 2010 semi-trailer accident. A jury awarded her $33,490 in medical expenses and $301,509 in noneconomic damages, but the noneconomic damages were capped at $250,000, the statutory limit at the time. The current cap is $325,000.
Damage cap opponents argue that they unfairly limit the ability of people who have been injured to receive the compensation they deserve. “We need to let juries decide damages rather than politicians,” said Wichita personal injury attorney Thomas Warner, who represented the plaintiff.
In contrast, damage cap supporters argue that they reduce insurance costs for the public and protect against “runaway juries” that award unjustified enormous verdicts. “Those caps were put on years ago to control costs in the insurance arena, to put some predictability back in insurance rates,” said Sen. Rick Wilborn (R-McPherson), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “And any time you add to loss cost, you can anticipate in time as the awards mount, that insurance rates will increase. It’s that simple.”
But regardless of the effect on insurance rates, it is only right that victims of negligent acts be fairly compensated, to the extent the damages can be determined. “We can put pen to paper to economic damages, such as medical bills, loss of earnings, future medical care, future loss of financial support,” said David Morantz of Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman. “But the noneconomic damages, which are really the reason that people seek redress from the courts, is from their disfigurement, their loss of enjoyment of life, their loss of the ability to do the things they used to enjoy doing in life, those damages had been capped… Now, with this, the noneconomic damages are whatever the jury says they are, and that’s how the law should be.”
Court decisions like this that protect the individual at the expense of big business show that personal injury attorneys will continue to fight for your rights in the courts, even when the legislature will not. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, please contact Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman for a free consultation. We will only receive a fee in the event of a successful resolution of your case.