Personal Injury Blog

Maryland High Court Broadly Interprets State's Cap on Non-Economic Damages

By: Matthew Tievsky

In a personal injury lawsuit, you may recover “economic damages” as well as “noneconomic damages.” Economic damages include medical bills, lost wages, and other forms of lost money. Noneconomic damages are everything else – the intangible injuries and damages that you can suffer from an injury such as pain, inconvenience, humiliation, and disfigurement.

Unfortunately, Maryland’s legislature has enacted a “cap” on noneconomic damages that applies to every personal injury case, based on the belief that juries supposedly cannot be trusted to assess noneconomic damages themselves. The cap, which changes from year to year, is $845,000 in 2018 (at least in cases where the victim survives). This means that if you are permanently and terribly injured, such as by being paralyzed for life, you can recover your medical bills, but you cannot recover the full amount of noneconomic damages that you have suffered through your loss of mobility and freedom (which we’d suggest is worth a lot more than $845,000).

In the recent case of Rodriguez v. Cooper, the Maryland Court of Appeals (the state’s high court) made clear that Maryland’s cap applies to all sorts of personal injury cases – not just cases that charge the wrongdoer with negligence (such as the usual automobile collision case), but also cases that charge the wrongdoer with gross negligence (negligence so egregious that it amounts to willful disregard of danger) as well as intentionally harming people (such as physically attacking someone). Unfortunately, rolling back Maryland’s oppressive cap on noneconomic damages will likely require action by voters, to compel the legislature to change the law.

Fortunately, the neighboring jurisdictions of the District of Columbia and Virginia are not as harsh. The District has no caps on noneconomic damages. Virginia does, but only as applied to medical malpractice cases. Therefore, at least in most cases, someone who is injured by a wrongdoer in these jurisdictions can recover full compensation for their suffering. Furthermore, even in a Maryland case, a skilled lawyer may be able to help you work around the cap on noneconomic damages, by building a case that you have suffered substantial economic damages – not just your past medical bills and lost wages, but also losses such as future medical care and loss of earning capacity.

If you have been injured by a wrongdoer and feel that you are entitled to significant compensation for your harms and losses, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., for a free consultation.