Highway collisions involving commercial rigs or semi-trucks frequently cause life-threatening, and even fatal, injuries to people who are riding in passenger cars. While negligent truck drivers and their employers may be held liable for the full amount of economic damages suffered by the victims, compensation for pain and suffering and non-economic damages is limited under Maryland law. The plaintiff in a March 18, 2020 Maryland car accident case challenged the state’s cap on non-economic damages, arguing before the Court of Special Appeals that the cap was unconstitutional.
The plaintiff in the case was driving on a Maryland highway when the defendant crossed the center median strip and struck her vehicle head on. At the time of the collision, the defendant was driving a commercial vehicle for his employer, which was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The plaintiff sustained catastrophic injuries as a result of the accident and underwent multiple surgeries in order to save her life and her arm. Thereafter, the plaintiff began a significant and life-changing recovery process, requiring near continuous medical care and psychological treatment for the trauma.
It was determined that the truck driver was intoxicated at the time of the collision, and that his employer was aware of his prior drunk driving charges. After a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff over $314,000 for medical expenses, $2.5 million for non-economic damages, and $3 million for punitive damages against the employer. The trial court, in accordance with Maryland law, reduced the non-economic damages to $830,000. On appeal, the plaintiff solely challenged the constitutionality of Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages.
While there is no limit on the amount of economic damages that may be recovered in a legal action, the Maryland General Assembly has enacted a cap on non-economic damages related to personal injury or wrongful death. Non-economic damages in a personal injury action, such as the motor vehicle collision here, may include damages for pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of consortium, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary injury. Pursuant to the statute, the cap increases by $15,000 every year. The jury is not informed of the limitation on damages, but if it awards an amount in excess of the cap, the trial court must reduce that amount to conform to the law.
The appeals court explained that, insofar as the issue of the constitutionality of the non-economic damages cap had been repeatedly and conclusively decided by Maryland’s highest court, it was bound to those decisions. Accordingly, the court held that the cap did not violate the equal protection clause, the jury to a jury trial, or the separation of powers doctrine, and affirmed the reduced award.
If you have suffered injuries as a result of negligence, you may have legal recourse against the liable parties. The Maryland car accident lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide legal advice to victims of semi-truck and auto collisions, as well as other accidents. We handle medical malpractice actions, premises liability claims, and many other injuries arising out of negligence. Call our office at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.