Like many other states, Nevada has placed limits on how much a plaintiff can recover in some types of personal injury lawsuits. Under the guise of “tort reform,” such limits are primarily intended to limit costs to insurers. In cases where damage caps apply, they can significantly reduce the kind of recovery a plaintiff could receive in a jurisdiction without a cap.
Types of damages
Nevada law distinguishes between three major types of damages: compensatory (or economic), noneconomic, and punitive damages. Generally speaking, compensatory damages are the readily quantifiable effects of the defendant’s wrongful actions. They include things like the plaintiff’s lost wages from taking time off work, damage to the plaintiff’s property, and past and future medical bills. Calculating some of types of compensatory damages, like lost future wages, can be a controversial part of a lawsuit.
On the other hand, noneconomic damages are consequences of the plaintiff’s injury that are hard to put a dollar value on. Common examples include a plaintiff’s pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, disfigurement, or anxiety.
Punitive damages arise in cases where a defendant has acted especially badly. Such damages are awarded where public policy dictates that a defendant should not just make the plaintiff whole, but also serve as a negative example for others. A plaintiff must first be awarded compensatory damages before receiving punitive damages. City of Reno v. Silver State Flying Serv., Inc., 84 Nev. 170, 180 (1968).
Nevada limits damages in certain types of cases
In an ordinary personal injury cases, Nevada law does not limit the damages a plaintiff can recover from a defendant. This means that plaintiffs injured in car crashes, bitten by dogs, or hurt due to a landowner’s negligence are able to recover sometimes very large sums.
These are situations where damage caps apply in Nevada:
- Medical malpractice lawsuits. Nevada law limits the amount a plaintiff can recover for noneconomic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit to $350,000. NRS 41A.035.
- Lawsuits against public employees. In lawsuits against state and local government employees, legislators, and certain government contractors for negligent behavior falling within the scope of their employment, damages are capped at $100,000, and may not include punitive damages. NRS 41.035.
- Lawsuits against some public land owners. A lawsuit arising from recreational activities on land or water and brought against public entities, a landowner who leases to the land to public entities, or an Indian tribe is also capped at $100,000. An example of this type of defendant would be a municipal corporation that owns a campground and is sued for negligent maintenance. NRS 41.035.
- Punitive damages are subject to specific caps. NRS 42.005 limits how large punitive damages can be in most cases. The limits are $300,000 if compensatory damages are less than $100,000, or three times the compensatory total if it exceeds $100,000. These limits don’t apply in suits brought against:
- A manufacturer, distributor, or seller of a defective product.
- An insurer who acts in bad faith regarding its obligations to provide insurance coverage.
- A person for violating a state or federal law prohibiting discriminatory housing practices if such law allows for punitive damages.
- A person for damages for an injury caused by the hazardous materials.
- A person for defamation.
Experienced injury lawyers understand damages
GGRM has been representing personal injury plaintiffs in Las Vegas for over 45 years. Our attorneys understand the importance of damage awards for our clients. Quite often a favorable damages outcome can be the difference between hardship and recovery. When it comes to personal injury lawsuits, having experienced lawyers on your side really pays. If you have been injured and you would like to speak to an attorney about your legal options, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.