Maybe you've heard of injury cases that resulted in hundreds of millions in damages, or even billions. These injury cases are often the exception, but they do occur from time to time, and they often lead to genuinely useful changes in industrial safety, product safety, and general well-being.
However, there are some cases where the law puts limits on how much an injured person can win in court. In most cases, these laws involve healthcare defendants, like hospitals or surgeons. Defenders of these damage caps assert that by protecting healthcare entities from huge lawsuits, it allows hospitals to do their jobs without fear of financial ruin. Detractors assert that by failing to hold hospitals accountable, poor policy or bad actors are insulated from accountability.
We can leave the debate over damage caps for another day. Today, our blog is concerned with one question: are there damage caps for medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that there are damage caps, but they're limited in scope. We'll discuss further below.
The Difference Between Economic, Non-Economic & Punitive Damages
The key to understanding medical malpractice damage caps in Pennsylvania is understanding the different types of damages.
Damages can be divided into three different categories:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Economic damages refer to losses that can be measured in dollars: the cost of medical care, the cost of home renovations to accommodate a permanent injury, the cost of lost wages due to hospitalization, and other financial losses caused by the accident. Economic damages are also called "special" damages.
Non-economic damages refers to losses that can't be measured in dollars but still represent actual damages. Non-economic damages seek compensation for things like loss of comfort, loss of companionship, loss of enjoyment, and other losses in quality of life. These are also called "general" damages.
Punitive damages are the rarest form of compensation and are only granted by the court in special cases. The express purpose of punitive damages is (as the name implies) to punish negligent entities for their role in causing harm. As a result, punitive damages are usually only awarded in situations where the defendant caused fatal harm or exhibited egregious negligence.
So How Are Damages Capped in Medical Malpractice Cases?
Under Pennsylvania law, only punitive damages are capped in medical malpractice cases. The upper limit of punitive damages is at two times the amount of actual damages. There is no cap for economic or non-economic damages, which is the vast majority of a plaintiff's compensation. In fact, punitive damages are exceedingly rare when it comes to malpractice cases, so the damage cap doesn't affect most cases anyway.
Getting Everything You Need for Life
The quality of your lawyer is measured in one thing: did they help you recover everything you lost? Medical costs, lost wages, and other losses? Your lawyer's duty is to investigate your accident and measure the impact it has made on your life. Without an accurate measurement, you'll be left without the resources you need to get back on your feet.
Since 1922, Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC has been helping our clients get what they need after accidents of all kinds. We've won tens of millions for our clients in cases involving birth injuries, car crashes, work accidents, and more. It's our job to account for all your damages in order to hold negligent people accountable, and we've been doing it for nearly a century.
Speak to us in a free consultation today at (888) 498-3023. There's no upfront cost and no risk to letting us handle your case.