Healy Scanlon Law Firm

Do statutory caps on damages affect medical negligence claims?


In Illinois and throughout the rest of the United States, there has been a sharp increase in medical malpractice premiums over the past decade; as a result, medical malpractice insurance has regained interest. Illinois personal injury experts have observed that this phenomenon may be due to the adoption of statutory caps by states, which limit the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The question that arises is, what is considered fair compensation for a victim of medical negligence? The other question that comes up is, what is the government's position in the event that the death occurs due to medical negligence and how does that relate to statutory caps?

The controversy regarding statutory caps for damages may not be unjustified. There is a frequent disagreement as to whether statutory caps actually help reduce malpractice premiums, how medical errors might be affected by them and whether they allow fair compensation for injured patients. Another question is whether the caps actually reduce the expenses on medical liability insurance, increase access to health care and lower health insurance expenses.

There are many types of caps on damages; some caps apply to medical malpractice claims and others apply to personal injury cases, including malpractice cases. Some of those caps apply to compensatory damages that are non-economic in nature and others to economic damages, as well as noneconomic compensatory damages. Sometimes, punitive damages are also included in the caps.

During a trial, the jury typically is not notified about the damage caps and their effects. Courts have widely agreed that most of these statutes are unconstitutional. However, the question of whether injured patients are being fairly compensated for their losses or suffering due to medical negligence remains unanswered.

Source: The Milbank Quarterly, "Damages Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases," Leonard J. Nelson, III, Michael A. Morrisey and Meredith L. Kilgore, accessed Oct. 30, 2014

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