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August 16, 2018

State Differences in Medical Malpractice Limits

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Posted in Wisconsin Workers Compensation Related News

When medical procedures go wrong from negligence or willful misconduct, loved ones often want to explore their legal options. Medical malpractice lawsuits allow you to hold a doctor or other health care provider responsible when negligent medical treatment causes harm. But some states have passed laws that place limitations on the amount of money that can be awarded in a successful medical malpractice lawsuit. In this article, we’ll explain how these “monetary limits called caps” work in medical malpractice cases, and we’ll provide state-by-state details on the current distinctions between these laws across America.

In a typical medical malpractice lawsuit, a number of different categories of damages are available if the plaintiff is successful in establishing the doctor’s liability for harm (“damages” is just another word for compensation for emotional and physical injuries as well as loss of employment or affection). These types of damages include:

  1. Cost of past and future medical treatment costs (economic damages)
  2. Reimbursement for lost income/earning potential (economic damages)
  3. Pain and suffering (non-economic damages)
  4. Punitive damages (usually reserved for cases involving extreme or outrageous conduct such as sexual abuse of a patient)

As part of tort reform efforts, a number of states have passed laws that limit the amount of damages that are recoverable after a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Most of these damage caps apply to compensation for “non-economic” losses, which includes awards for a medical malpractice plaintiff’s pain and suffering, which is meant to cover pain, discomfort, stress, anxiety, scarring, disfigurement, and other negative effects of the plaintiff’s injuries and ongoing recovery. For example, in California, plaintiffs who win their medical malpractice case can only recover up to $250,000 in non-economic damages.

In the chart below, you’ll find the latest state-specific information on laws that place a cap on medical malpractice damages. Click on you state’s link for more detail about the award limits, as well as the statute of limitations and other civil injury laws courtesy of All Law:

StatE Damage Caps

  • Alabama None
  • Alaska Non-economic: $250,000. Wrongful death or a disability considered more than 70% disabling: $400,000
  • Arizona Constitutionally prohibited
  • Arkansas None
  • California Non-economic $250,000
  • Colorado Non-economic: $300,000. Total damages: $1 million
  • Connecticut None
  • Delaware None
  • District of Columbia None
  • Florida Non-Economic Damages: $500,000 for practitioners; $750,000 for non-practitioners; $1-million for permanent vegetative state or death
  • Georgia Punitive: $250,000. Non-economic: $350,000 against providers. Additional $350,000 against each health care facility. Total maximum for non-economic: $1,050,000
  • Hawaii Non-economic: $375,000 with exceptions for specific situations
  • Idaho Non-economic $250,000, adjusted annually for inflation. Does not apply to wilful/reckless negligence or felonies.
  • Illinois Struck down in 2010 – Non-economic: $500,000 against providers. $1,000,000 against hospitals
  • Indiana $1,250,000 total if it occurred after 1999. Providers liable for a maximum of $250,000 with the rest to be paid only one plaintiff. If two wrongful death plaintiffs- $125% of current non-economic cap.
  • Massachusetts Non-economic damages: $500,000 except in catastrophic injuries Michigan Non-economic: As of 2015 $444,900 or $794,500 for catastrophic/disabling injuries. Adjusts annually for inflation
  • Minnesota None
  • Mississippi Non-economic: $500,000/plaintiff
  • Missouri Non-economic: $350,000; but cap ruled unconstitutional by
  • Missouri Supreme Court in 2012
  • Montana Non-economic: $250,000
  • Nebraska $2,250,000 total except maximum of $500,000 for those qualifying entities under the Hospital-Medical Liability Act
  • Nevada Non-economic: $350,000 except with limited exceptions
  • New Hampshire None
  • New Jersey Punitive: The greater of $350,000 or 5x compensatory damages.
  • New Mexico Total: $600,000 except for past/future medical bills and punitive damages. Maximum provider liability is $200,000 with the rest paid by compensation fund.
  • New York None North Carolina Non-economic: $500,000
  • North Dakota Non-economic: $500,000 however any award above $250,000 may be reviewed by judge
  • Ohio Non-economic damages: $250,000 or 3x economic damages up to $350,000/plaintiff, whichever is greater. $500,000 total for multiple plaintiffs. In catastrophic cases, $500,000 or $1,000,000
  • Oklahoma Non-economic $350,000 for OB/ER cases or if there’s an offer of judgment
  • Oregon Non-economic: $500,000 for wrongful death. Other non-economic caps not constitutional
  • Pennsylvania Punitive: Twice actual damages. Constitutional prohibition on caps of economic damages
  • Rhode Island None
  • South Carolina Punitive damages: $350,000 or 3x compensatory damages. Non-economic: $350,000 or facility against each provider adjusted annually for inflation. Total claim with multiple providers capped at $1,050,000
  • South Dakota Non-economic $500,000
  • Tennessee None
  • Texas Non-economic damages: $250,000 physicians or providers. Additional $250,000 against each health care institution
  • Utah Non-economic $450,000
  • Vermont None
  • Virginia Total damages $2,000,000 for acts occurring after July 2008.
  • Washington None
  • West Virginia Non-economic $250,000, adjusted for inflation annually with an absolute maximum of $375,000. In catastrophic cases, $500,000 adjusted annually up to a max of $750,000
  • Wisconsin Non-economic $750,000 for medical negligence. Wrongful death actions: $500,000 for minors and $350,000 for adults
  • Wyoming Constitutionally prohibited As you can see, there are a number of key differences in how a case may be settled based on these state law variances.

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