In a Nevada personal injury lawsuit, compensatory damages is money that the defendants must pay you to cover your past and anticipated losses related to your injuries. Compensatory damages consist of economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages (“pecuniary damages”) are those to which it is relatively easy to attach a dollar amount. They include items such as
Non-economic damages are those which do not necessarily involve out-of-pocket expenses. They include
- pain and suffering,
- emotional distress,
- physical impairment,
- loss of life enjoyment and
- similar “general” losses.1
Example one: Burt, a car salesman, suffers a spinal injury in a slip-and-fall accident at a Las Vegas resort hotel. The accident occurred due to an employee’s negligence in leaving a beverage spill. Burt makes a claim against the casino for compensatory damages in the amount of $34,000 for:
- Payment for medical bills totaling $20,000, which include:
- Emergency room visit, x-rays and MRI at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center
- Ambulance to the emergency room;
- Prescriptions medications; and
- Follow-up medical care by Burt’s personal physician.
- One week of lost wages totaling $6,000 in salary and another $3,000 in lost sales commissions; and
- Pain and suffering in the amount of $5,000.
Example two: Julie, a 25-year-old law student, is injured when she slips and hits her head on the edge of a coffee table. She goes to an urgent care center to have her injuries looked at. The doctor sends her home with pain medication and instructions to ice her head. However, it turns out that the doctor has missed internal bleeding, which would have been caught had he run the proper tests. As a result of the doctor’s malpractice, Julie suffers a permanent brain injury.
Julie sues the doctor and urgent care center for medical malpractice. A jury awards her $15,000,000 in economic damages, most of which is for lost earning capacity and long-term care.
However, even though Julie’s economic damages are very large and she has experienced incredible suffering, because hers is a 2023 medical malpractice case, she is entitled to only $350,000 in non-economic damages. Her total compensatory damage award is $15,350,000. Had she been injured through any other type of negligence her award for non-economic damages would not have been capped. In real life, Julie’s lawyer would most likely look to see if there is any other theory under which to bring a suit — for instance, a lawsuit under Nevada’s premises liability laws for Julie’s fall.
Is there a cap on compensatory damages in Nevada?
In most cases, there is no limit on the amount you can recover as compensatory damages in Nevada. Compensatory damages can be awarded in whatever amount the jury (or, in a “bench” trial, the judge) deems fair and reasonable.
An exception is non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) in a medical malpractice case. These are capped at $350,000 for 2023, regardless of the economic damages or the extent of pain and suffering.
Note that the pain and suffering damages cap for Nevada medical malpractice cases increases with each year:
|Year||Medical negligence damage cap in Nevada|
Starting in 2029, the cap will increase by 2.1% annually.2
How are punitive damages different?
Compensatory damages contrast with punitive damages, which are meant not to compensate your losses. Instead, punitive damages are meant to punish wrongdoers who engage in particularly blameworthy actions.
In Nevada, punitive damage awards are capped at:
- $300,000 when your compensatory damages are less than $100,000, or
- Three times your compensatory damages if the amount of compensatory damages is $100,000 or more.3
What if I was partly at fault?
Under Nevada’s modified comparative negligence law, you can still recover compensatory damages as long as you were no more than 50% at fault for your injury. However, the court will reduce your damages in proportion to your degree of fault.4
So if you sustain $10,000 in damages in a car accident – and the court finds you 25% at fault – then the defendant owes you $7,500 in damages.
Can I get an advance on my compensatory damages?
If your personal injury lawsuit is taking a while to settle or go to trial, you can take out a pre-settlement loan from the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, you will have to repay the loan plus interest if and when you finally get paid.
Injured in Las Vegas? Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident in Nevada or by a defective or dangerous product or someone else’s wrongful act, we invite you to contact us for a consultation.
Our experienced Nevada personal injury attorneys are here to fight to help you get all the compensation you deserve in your Nevada settlement agreement or trial. (For claims to be filed in California or Colorado, please see our articles on compensatory damages claims in California and compensatory damages claims in Colorado).
Don’t leave money on the table! Call us or fill out the form on this page to schedule your free consultation.
Also see our article on Nevada attorneys’ fees.
- NRS 41A.011.
- NRS 41A.035. AB 404 (2023).
- NRS 42.005.
- NRS 41.141.