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Car Accident Non-economic Caps Are Needed


Dear Source:
The veto on the legislation removing the non-economic cap in car accidents must be overridden. The veto only serves the interests of off island insurance companies and large corporations and does damage to the part of our community who can least afford it.
A non-economic cap is a limitation on the amount of money an injured person can recover for scarring, pain and suffering, psychological damages, loss of enjoyment of life and mental anguish.
For example, one of my clients is a 14 years old girl who as a pedestrian was hit and knocked down by a security truck, which then partially ran over her face. As a result, all the teeth in her mouth were knocked out, her jaw was broken and knocked out of alignment and her face was disfigured. Her case dragged on for five years. She was unable to replace her teeth. She had her jaws wired shut for over six months taking nutrition through a straw. She lost 30 pounds and looked like a scarecrow. She was in constant excruciating pain with any movement of her jaw. She went through her high school years with no teeth, constant pain and headaches. She was the subject of taunts and jokes. She did not go to her prom. She developed psychological injuries of extreme depression, anxiety, and loss of self-confidence and esteem. She walked with her face down so people would not notice her mouth. When she spoke, she would put her hand in front of her face. She became suicidal. Under the law, she is entitled to her medical bills and $75,000, woefully inadequate.
Who benefited from this law? Only, the nationwide multi-million dollar security company and its stateside insurer who had a five million dollar insurance policy! Who suffered? My client did! As well as her family and our community, who have supported her and nurtured her, and who will have to continue to do so well into the future.
I had another client who was in a car accident with an off island contractor of HOVENSA where the car caught on fire. She was burned and scarred over 60 per cent of her body and lost the sight in her right eye. She was an unemployed housewife with no economic damage. She also was entitled to $75,000 and her medical bills. Again, who suffers? It is the client, the family and the community, because they will have to bear the financial burden of providing for the type of future care and services this client will need for the rest of her life.
No other jurisdiction except Maryland has a cap on only non-economic damages in case accidents. In Maryland it pertains predominately to uninsured motorist coverage and the cap is $500,000 not $75,000. Essentially, we are the only jurisdiction that has such an outrageous law.
The Revised Organic Act of 1954, which specifically incorporated certain inalienable rights and guarantees of the Constitution, provides the people of the Virgin Islands the right to have the decision as to the amount of damages to be made by a jury. It is the jury, made up of people in our community, who should decide after hearing the evidence the amount of damages to be awarded for suffering, not an arbitrary law drafted and passed by the insurance industry and large corporations, such as HOVENSA.
The idea that the people of the Virgin Islands are not able to hear the evidence and fairly decide the compensation to be given to a person who has suffered at the hands of another is degrading and insulting. The idea that Virgin Islanders can be scarred, blinded, lose an arm or a leg and receive only $75,000 for the loss is a travesty.
Senators, bite the bullet, protect the Virgin Islanders, and override the governor's veto.
Lee J. Rohn
St. Croix

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