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The Debate on Damage Caps for Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice and Damage Caps
A young boy died after complications from medical malpractice, and his parents are fighting back to stop caps on medical malpractice settlements.

“Ian’s short life was a constant battle to improve the system for those who will come after him. We will sorely miss his beautiful smile and ready laugh, and are sorry his journey had to end so soon,” his parents said in a statement.

After the drug manufacturer explicitly warned that the drug should not be used to induce labor, the doctor negligently did it anyway, this ultimately caused his death.

The damages were so severe to his brain that he required 16 hours of nursing care per day, along with seizure medication and sedatives to sleep.

It was discovered later that the doctor had many other pending medical malpractice lawsuits.

After the little boy went through this traumatic experience, his parents lobbied the Washington State legislature to pass a Patients’ Bill of Right bill. Their fight was to stop all bills that would cap damages for victims of medical malpractice. The couple also joined The Center for Justice and Democracy to oppose a recent bill regarding medical caps – a bill that did not pass.

What is a Medical Malpractice Damage Cap?

A damage cap is a limit on the amount of money that can be awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit. These damages are call ‘non-economic damages’ because it is awards for pain and suffering, physical and emotional distress, loss of sexual organs, etc., which makes it difficult to put a dollar amount on these losses.

What is the Purpose of Damage Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases?

One of the purposes would be to decrease insurance premiums for medical professionals, doctors in particular. It is also prevents plaintiffs from going after doctors for several million dollars. It is in essence a form of protection for the doctor. However, a damage cap opposes the cap because the amount they are awarded may not even be enough to cover medical bills and care for the person who was severely damaged.

For example, baby Ian required 16 hours of nursing assistance every day after the doctor’s negligence. If he required this much care for the rest of his life, his medical bills would very significant. With a damage cap, the award would definitely not cover his nursing care for long.

Without a damage cap, the plaintiff could receive the amount that they would need to survive after the damage was done, as caused by the doctor.

Do you think damage caps are fair?

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