Discover Why Caps on Damages suck and why you should care
The horrific stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in August illustrates all you need to know about caps. Here's the facts: In August, 2011, a windstorm caused metal scaffolding supporting stage lights to fall on dozens of fans attending a music concert at the Indiana State Fair. The concert promoters were warned more than two hours before the catastrophe that there would be extremely strong winds and heavy rain, but they did not postpone or cancel the concert. No precautions were taken by security.
Seven people were killed during the stage collapse, including 23-year Alina BigJohnny, and 58 survivors were seriously injured. Among the 58 injury victims was a teenager who was paralyzed and now faces a lifetime in a wheelchair. There is no dispute that the deaths and severe injuries caused by the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair have caused unimaginable harm to the injury victims and families of those who perished. In fairness, these innocent victims of the stage collapse should be compensated for their economic (medical expenses and loss of earnings) and non-economic (change in the quality of their life) damages, right?
But there's one big problem: Indiana law caps the state's liability at $5 million for ALL of the injury victims and the estates of those who died. The cap imposes an artificial limit on the maximum amount that all of the injury victims can recover, even if their collective damages far exceed the cap. The paralyzed teenager alone faces a lifetime of medical bills that will likely exceed $10 million.
Today, the State of Indiana offered the full amount of $5 million to ALL (not each) of the 65 persons harmed or killed by the accident. The estates of the seven persons who died in the accident will get $300,000, and those seriously harmed by the accident will recover sums ranging from a high of $500,000 for the paralyzed teenager to $109. Thirty one people with physical injuries will recover nothing.
Gregory Zoeller, Esq., the Attorney General for Indiana, acknowledges that the injury victims will not even be able to pay their medical expenses with the settlement money. The injury victims are being offered settlements that amount to 65 percent of their documented medical bills. Many of those seriously injured in the accident will be forced into personal bankruptcy by their unpaid medical expenses. Many of those seriously injured in the accident will never be able to work again and face personal bankruptcy.
When asked to explain the fact that the settlement will not even compensate the injury victims for the full amount of their medical bills, Indiana's Attorney General simply responded, "The law is the law." Great explanation! Let's just ignore that fact that a paralyzed teenager has been forever devastated by the State's negligence and faces the rest of his life in a wheelchair. I'd like the Attorney General to look the paralzyed teenager in the face when he tells him, "The law is the law."
Unfortunately, Indiana is not the only state with caps on damages. Currently, 30 states have laws placing a cap on damages. Fortunately, some of the more enlightened states (Arizona, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Wyoming) have State constitutions that explicitly prohibit caps on damages. New York, New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire have no caps on damages.
The next time someone tells you that there should be caps on damages, you might want to mention the Indiana Stage Fair catastrophe.
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