Understanding Caps on Damage Awards: Limits Paid to Victims of Negligence

Over the course of the past couple of decades, an inordinate amount of media attention has focused on so-called “high awards” or “high jury verdicts” in lawsuits involving an injured person or medical negligence. A prime example of a case that received a great deal of attention a number of years ago, and that remains in the minds of many people when lawsuits are discussed, is the woman injured by a spilt cup of coffee from McDonalds.

In that particular case, the woman ended up suing and receiving a jury verdict awarding her $3 million for her injuries. The jury verdict made headlines not only in the United States, but around the world. What did not garner much media attention was the fact that the injured woman simply did not actually receive $3 million as a result of the jury’s verdict in her case.

State laws, including those in Colorado, place caps on what are called punitive damages. Punitive damages represent a dollar amount above and beyond what a jury awards for actual damages. Punitive damages are added to a jury’s award as a means of “punishing” a negligent party who causes injuries because of particularly egregious or reckless conduct.

A jury might find that an injured person is entitled to compensation in the amount of $100,000 for actual damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and so forth). If the person who caused the injury was extremely reckless, a jury might add another $1 million to the award in the form of punitive damages. Even though this is the decision of the jury, state law limits the total amount a person can receive in the form of punitive damages to a dollar amount well below the $1 million awarded by the jurors in a particular case.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence of someone else, contact the experienced accident attorneys at Harding & Associates. We will schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with you to discuss your case. An appointment can be scheduled at your convenience by calling us at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500. Our legal team can answer any questions you may have about punitive damages and other issues associated with your claim.