The classifications of damages in Ohio are treated differently. Ohio has legislatively imposed caps on “noneconomic damages” which are damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress. There are no caps on “economic damages.”
Economic damages compensate accident victims for the quantifiable monetary losses that they suffer as a result of an injury such as medical bills, lost wages, and other “easy to add up” losses. The good news is that there is no cap on the amount of “economic damages” available to injury victims in Ohio.
Noneconomic damages compensate the accident victim for non-quantifiable losses such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress. The bad news is that there is an absolute cap on the amount of “non-economic damages” available to plaintiffs in Ohio.
The Ohio cap on noneconomic damages is the larger of (a) $250,000.00 or, (b) three times economic damages (subject to a maximum of $350,000.00 per plaintiff and a maximum of $500,000.00 per occurrence). There is no cap if the victim has suffered a “permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb, loss of a bodily organ system,” or “permanent physical injury that prevents the person from being able to independently care for himself or herself and perform life sustaining activities.”
For example, let’s say that you are the unfortunate victim of a car accident and your economic damages (medical bills and lost wages) add up to $50,000.00. Because you are potentially entitled to either (1) the larger of three times your economic damages (here, $150,000.00) subject to a $350,000.00 maximum, OR (2) $250,000.00, in this scenario your non-economic damages would be capped at $250,000.00.
Continuing on with this example, if your economic damages were $100,000.00, your non-economic damages would be capped at $300,000.00 (three times your economic damages).
Continuing further with this example, if your economic damages were $500,000.00, your non-economic damages would be capped at a maximum of $350,000.00.
Remember that there is no cap if the plaintiff can meet the “permanent and substantial injury” classification described above. Also, although these caps on noneconomic damages do not apply to wrongful death cases brought under the wrongful death statute, they do limit recovery by a deceased victim’s estate for noneconomic damages that the decedent experienced prior to death.
The amount of noneconomic damages that a victim’s next of kin could recover for their own personal loss resulting from the victim’s death would not be subject to any caps if the case was filed as a “wrongful death” action. However, the amount of non-economic damages that the victim’s next of kin could recover on the victim’s behalf for the victim’s own personal pain and suffering experienced prior to death would be subject to the caps.
At my office, we regularly utilize the services of vocational experts and economists in order to prove the level of damages and lost wages in a given case. A vocational expert is an expert in the areas of vocational rehabilitation, vocational earning capacity, lost earnings, the cost of replacement labor, and loss of ability to perform services for a household. An economist is an expert who applies economic theories and concepts ranging from financial statement analysis, statistics, computational models, and mathematics. When analyzing catastrophic accident cases, the vocational expert will identify what the victim could have earned prior to the incident, as opposed to what the victim is now likely to earn following the incident. The economic expert then comes into play and calculates the value of those earnings over time so that the difference between the two is understood by the jury.
Our office has an excellent working relationship with some of the best vocational experts and economists in Cleveland and throughout the state of Ohio. Should you choose my office to handle your injury claim, these experts will become an important part of your case and will help see to it that you get the compensation that you deserve.
If you have questions about any of the legal issues raised in this blog, contact Dodosh Law Offices, LLC at (440) 298-2344. Or, you can fill out a contact form and Attorney Dodosh will get in touch with you.