American health care is notoriously expensive and complicated even under the best circumstances. In cases involving medical malpractice, the costs and the complications can be extreme for both the health care providers and their patients.
Some states and other authorities have tried to keep a lid on these costs through imposing caps on medical malpractice payouts, but it’s unclear if these caps are actually helping to contain costs, or if they’re merely protecting insurance companies and health care providers at the expense of injured patients.
In this blog post, we will take a look at medical malpractice caps in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
What is the purpose of a medical malpractice cap?
The health care industry has long claimed that large payouts for medical malpractice claims drive up costs. In order to better manage the risk of large payouts, medical malpractice insurance companies raise their premiums for doctors and medical groups, who pass on these increases to their patients and their insurers. One solution, they say, is to place a cap on the amount of money that can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Many states have imposed such caps, and there is some research that suggests they do keep medical malpractice insurance premiums down. However, the research is less clear about whether these caps benefit patients as a whole.
Certainly, the seem deeply unfair for patients who have experienced life-long, expensive injuries because medical malpractice.
Indeed, some states that imposed caps later threw them out, finding that they violated their state constitutions.
The Washington metropolitan area
The District of Columbia has no cap on medical malpractice damages. Virginia and Maryland have caps that are set to rise over time.
In Virginia, the cap goes up by a predetermined amount every year. The cap is currently $2.6 million. The current law will max out at $2.95 million in 2031.
Similarly, Maryland has a cap that rises every year by $15,000, but this applies only to non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. It’s currently at $875,000. This cap does not affect economic damages, such as medical bills and lost earnings capacity. Note that damages can be higher in some wrongful death cases.
Note also that military personnel may be covered by different laws in medical malpractice cases involving Department of Defense medical care. The Pentagon recently announced that it was raising its cap to $750,000.
The damages stemming from a medical malpractice injury can be enormous, encompassing economic and non-economic damages dating back to the injury and, in cases of permanent injury, forward for the rest of their expected lifespans. Experienced professionals can help the injured and their families learn strategies for maximizing recovery.