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The Case Against a Medical Malpractice Damages Cap

Written November 7, 2014

For the past few years, there has been a back-and-forth about whether there should be a cap on the maximum amount of damages that a jury can award a plaintiff in a medical malpractice action. Some states have enacted a medical malpractice damages cap, and others have not. Currently, New York has no such limit.

A recent article found online at HuffingtonPost.com illuminates the issue in a new light, arguing that a med-mal damages cap is unfair to women, children, and the elderly. The argument goes as follows:

When a person wins a medical malpractice case, he or she presumably has suffered some kind of injury requiring medical treatment. Therefore, much of the award that is received will go back into the very system that caused the injury. These are called compensatory damages, and compensatory damages are rarely limited. Another kind of compensatory damages is lost earnings. Lost earnings damages seek to reimburse a plaintiff for the amount he or she would have earned in his or her lifetime but for the accident caused by the defendant. But there are other kinds of damages, aside from compensatory damages.

When a woman loses her ability to reproduce, or a child dies as a result of another party’s negligence, non-economic damages are usually awarded. These are subjective damages that are designed to compensate someone for a loss of something (usually a bodily function, or sense) or someone. These non-economic damages are the types of damages that are usually limited in medical malpractice cases.

Thus, one-size-fits-all damages caps treat all injuries alike. No matter whether a child loses the use of a limb, or a senior goes blind, the up-side potential for both are exactly the same. Not only does a cap treat all victim’s the same, but it also treats all negligent defendants the same way, limiting the amount of their loss regardless of their level of negligence.

How a damages cap treats the sexes differently can be seen as follows. Traditionally, men have been the primary wage-earners. When a man is injured, he can benefit from a limitless amount of economic damages in the form of lost wages. However, when a housewife is injured, her “earnings” will be less, and she will have her non-economic damages capped by the statutory limit. Thus, a damages cap seems to indicate a societal preference for wage earners over all else.

Have You Been Injured in a Case of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a physician’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary damages. Luckily, in New York, there are no limits on medical malpractice verdicts for economic and non-economic damages alike. To learn more about medical malpractice lawsuits and what needs to be proven in order to recover compensation, you should contact an experienced New York medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. Call (516) 394-4200 to set up a free initial consultation with a dedicated attorney today.

See Other Blog Posts:

New York Nursing Home Successfully Sued for $2 Million After Negligent Care Led to Stage-IV Bedsore, Long Island Injury Lawyers Blog, September 29, 2014.

“Special Knowledge” Jury Instruction Required Reversal of Verdict in Plaintiff’s Favor, Long Island Injury Lawyers Blog, September 29, 2014.

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