Victims’ Right to Justice Trounced by Tennessee Legislature

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Effective October 1, 2011, Tennessee injury victims’ ability to fully recover the true amount of their losses from the person who, or business that, negligently caused their injury will be limited to an amount predetermined by the Legislature. Relying on the ‘necessity’ of damage caps to bring business to Tennessee, the Legislature recently passed a tort reform bill, saying that businesses needed a way to predict potential financial liability if sued for injury or other wrong-doing.

Unfortunately, there is no similar way for victim’s to predict the extent of their injuries. In fact, there is no way to predict who will be injured by another’s negligence, when an injury will occur or what the injury will cost them.

The scope of the new law affects all civil cases, limiting victim recovery in all personal injury cases, including slips and falls, motor vehicle accidents, nursing home negligence and medical malpractice, to name a few.

The reform law calls for the following damage caps:

  • $500,000 cap on punitive damages
  • $750,000 cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice and personal injury cases
  • $1 million cap on catastrophic injuries such as spinal cord injuries causing paraplegia or quadriplegia, amputation, third-degree burns, or wrongful death

The cap will not apply if economic damages are objectively quantifiable, if the defendant intentionally injured the victim or falsified records in an attempt to avoid liability or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident.

While many in the Legislature argued that the reform was necessary to promote business growth in Tennessee, the new law overlooks the many seriously injured victims who require a lifetime of expensive medical care or rehabilitation. Many in Tennessee who innocently suffer as a result of the negligence of a doctor, driver, company or other individual’s bad acts will be forced to work through physical injuries while at the same time dealing with the repercussions of a less than full financial recovery.

Source: The Insurance Journal, “Tennessee Approves Caps on Lawsuit Damages,” 5/25/2011