Capped damages that are upheld bad for the Justice System

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Capped damages

Capped damages upheld in wrongful death suit. Bad for Justice System.

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that caps on how much money someone can win in a wrongful death lawsuit do not violate the constitution.

The decision handed down yesterday says a person’s right to a jury trial in those cases is not violated by limiting damages for noneconomic factors such as pain and suffering.

In this case, a jury awarded $9 million in noneconomic damages for a wrongful death following a medical procedure. State law required the court to reduce that to $350,000.
Republicans have championed lawsuit restrictions as a way to make the state more attractive to businesses and health care providers.

But in the past the state Supreme Court has rolled back some of those limits, such as medical malpractice caps.

Like a lot of states, Mississippi caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, effectively limiting the amount of money that a successful plaintiff can receive even after a jury has found the defendant liable for medical malpractice.

Mississippi’s cap for non-economic damages is set at $500,000, and you can find this law codified at Mississippi Code section 11-1-60.

It’s important to understand the kinds of compensation that this law does and does not affect when it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits.

Non-economic damages are those that are meant to compensate the plaintiff for the negative effects of the malpractice that aren’t so easily calculable, and at the same time are more subjective from plaintiff to plaintiff. They include compensation for pain and suffering, stress and anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring and disfigurement, and similar losses caused by the defendant’s malpractice.

Mississippi’s cap on medical malpractice damages does not apply to economic damages, which include payment of past medical bills, prospective payment for future medical care, reimbursement of lost income, compensation for any limitations on the plaintiff’s ability to earn a living because of the malpractice, and any other provable losses that can be tied to the malpractice and/or to the medical treatment that was made necessary by it.

Why impose the caps?

There has been a push in recent years not only for states to pass caps on non-economic damages, but also for the federal government to pass a national cap on these damages. Several reasons have been offered to justify the caps, but the most common reason has been to lower medical malpractice insurance premiums for health care providers.

Insurance companies claim that the large pay-outs in medical malpractice cases for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages have required them to sharply increase the cost of medical malpractice insurance. Other insurance providers have stopped offering the coverage altogether because they argue it has become too costly to do so. In turn, physicians have left states with high insurance premiums and/or limited insurance providers.

Why are these caps bad?

There is no reliable data supporting the connection between non-economic damage caps and decreases in medical malpractice insurance premiums. The American Bar Association (ABA) has spoken out against a national cap, basing its position on the lack of empirical data showing caps have resulted in lower insurance premiums for physicians and other health care providers. Rather, states that have implemented insurance reform have had greater success lowering the overall costs of medical malpractice insurance than those that have only implemented damage caps.

Non-economic damage caps also serve to protect the person responsible for committing the wrong. The whole point of the tort system is to hold parties financially responsible for the harms they have caused. By placing caps on the value of an injured person’s claim, the state removes personal responsibility from liable health care providers and, more importantly, fails to protect members of the public from the possibility of receiving the same negligent care.

The real problem with non-economic damage caps is that they hurt the people the law is supposed to protect: the injured. Damage caps disproportionately impact those who have suffered the worst injuries. They are the ones who will have endured losses that far exceed their medical bills and lost wages.

Non-economic damages help ensure those who have been hurt the most are fairly compensated for all of their non-financial losses. This is particularly true when the person hurt is a child, a student or a retired senior whose economic losses may be minimal, but because of the severity of the injury, their non-monetary losses may be great. Does this mean these people’s injuries are worth any less than others? According to the non-economic damages cap, it does.

The Attorneys at Chhabra & Gibbs, P.A. will do everything they can to maximize what is owed to you for your damages in a court of law. If you have been injured due to Medical Malpractice, contact the Attorneys at Chhabra & Gibbs, P.A. today by going to their website or calling 601-948-8005.

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