The majority of states have placed damage caps, or limits, on the amount of money that a patient can receive in a medical malpractice case. Many of the laws in place put a cap on some of the noneconomic damages that a patient might suffer, such as pain and suffering and emotional damage, as part of broader healthcare and tort reform measures beginning nationwide in the early 1990s. To date, additional states have in place caps on both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, with certain states going so far as to cap long-term disability payments to plaintiffs’. Knowing the applicable statutory damage caps in a given state jurisdiction is essential to formulate a viable and strong medical malpractice claims case.
In 2016, Thirty-Three (33) States Deploy Caps to Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
The following is a list of those states, as of 2016, which adhere to statutorily imposed damage caps when calculating damages awards and settlement amounts probable in a given medical malpractice lawsuit. Those 33 states utilizing some damage cap include:
- Alaska – $250,000 for noneconomic damages, bumped to $400,000 for cases that involve severe impairment higher than 70% and for wrongful death.
- California – The state has a $250,000 damage cap for noneconomic damages, and there is no cap on the amount of money the patient can receive for medical care required due to the medical malpractice.
- Colorado – There is a $1 million cap on the overall amount of compensation the patient can receive including medical expenses and noneconomic damages. The damage cap for solely noneconomic damages is $300,000.
- Florida – There is a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages against practitioners and a $750,000 cap against non-practitioners.
- Georgia – The current damage cap in the state is $350,000 for noneconomic damages, increased to $700,000 if more than one facility is responsible.
- Hawaii – Noneconomic damages are limited to $375,000 at this time.
- Idaho – The state has a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, which is variable and can increase or decrease with the living wage.
- Indiana – Individual healthcare providers cannot be liable for more than $250,000 in damages. Malpractice that occurred before July 1, 1999, have a $750,000 cap, and those that occurred on or after June 30, 1999, have a $1.25 million cap on overall damages.
- Kansas – There is a $250,000 noneconomic damages cap.
- Louisiana – The total damage cap in this state is $500,000, with the only exception being future medical care costs. Amounts over $100,000 are paid from the Patient’s Compensation Fund.
- Maine – Medical malpractice damages are not capped, but there is a limit of $500,000 in wrongful death cases.
- Maryland – For noneconomic damages, there is a limit of $770,000, with a cap increase set at $15,000 per year.
- Massachusetts – The state has noneconomic damage caps set at $500,000, but this does not apply in cases of disfigurement or permanent loss of bodily function.
- Michigan – The cap limit is $280,000, which can be increased to $500,000 under certain circumstances.
- Mississippi – The noneconomic damages cap is set at $500,000 in the state.
- Montana – The cap on noneconomic damages in the state is $250,000.
- Nebraska – An incident of medical malpractice occurring before December 31, 2014, has a damage cap of $2.25 million. Those that took place before this date but after December 31, 2003, have a cap of $1.75 million. Those that took place between December 31, 1992, and December 31, 2003, have a cap of $1.25 million.
- Nevada – The noneconomic damages are capped at $350,000 in the state.
- New Jersey – Punitive damages are limited to $350,000, or five times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
- New Mexico – The overall cap on all damages is $600,000 but does not apply to compensation for past or future medical care.
- North Carolina – The noneconomic damages cap is $500,000 and is adjusted for inflation each year.
- North Dakota – The state has a $500,000 noneconomic damage cap for medical malpractice cases.
- Ohio – The noneconomic damages can’t be greater than $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages with a maximum of $350,000.
- Oklahoma – The noneconomic damages are capped at $350,000.
- Oregon – There is a damage cap in the event the malpractice caused the patient’s wrongful death. The cap is set at $500,000.
- South Carolina – The noneconomic damages cap is $350,000. If the judgment is against more than one person, it can’t exceed $1.05 million.
- South Dakota – The noneconomic damages are capped at $500,000.
- Tennessee – In this state, the noneconomic damages are capped at $750,000., increased to $1 million in cases of catastrophic injury.
- Texas – The noneconomic damage cap is $250,000, or $500,000 if against more than one party.
- Utah – Noneconomic damages are capped at $450,000.
- Virginia – The current damage cap for all damages is $2.2 million, and will increase annually. The cap will increase to $2.25 million on July 1, 2016.
- West Virginia – The damage cap on noneconomic damages is $250,000 with a rise to $500,000 in the event of wrongful death, catastrophic injury, and disfigurement.
- Wisconsin – The noneconomic damages are capped at $750,000.
The Remaining State Jurisdictions and The District of Columbia Do Not Adhere to Damage Caps in Medical Negligence Tort Claims
The states that are not a party to the list above do not have statutory damage caps in place as of 2016. However, state laws are subject to annual change. Moreover, venue selection and jurisdiction should be left to the decision of legal counsel that has close familiarity with the fact pattern of a given proposed medical malpractice claims case.