BY: Kenneth T. Watkins | IN: Medical Malpractice
As medical malpractice attorneys, it is always our goal to pursue the maximum amount of compensation available for the injuries and losses our clients have suffered because of the negligence of doctors or other healthcare providers. Unfortunately, that maximum is often far less than medical malpractice victims or their families deserve. That’s because Michigan, like over half of all states, has caps on the total amount of damages that plaintiffs can receive in medical malpractice lawsuits.
These caps, which legislators across the country passed as part of so-called “tort reform” efforts, limit the ability of judges or juries to award medical malpractice plaintiff the full amount of compensation to which they are entitled. These caps vary from state to state, both in terms of the dollar limits on medical malpractice awards and the kind of damages to which these limits apply.
In some states, these damage caps have been successfully challenged in court and overturned as unconstitutional. That’s not the case here in Michigan. Our state’s medical malpractice caps are still very much in effect, as they are in several other states. That means the amount you may able to recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit can largely depend on where the malpractice occurred.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, an award of damages is based on several different factors and types of losses after a doctor’s negligence has been established. Some losses are called “economic damages.” These damages can typically be calculated based on bills or paychecks, such as medical and rehabilitation expenses, past and future loss of earnings and employment opportunities, and the economic value of domestic services.
“Non-economic” damages, on the other hand, compensate medical malpractice victims for less tangible but equally real losses and injuries, such as pain and suffering, loss of society and companionship, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.
Some states, like Indiana, place an “umbrella cap” on the total amount of combined economic and non-economic damages a malpractice victim can receive from an individual provider (i.e., Indiana’s umbrella cap is $1.25 million; $1 million of which is paid by a state fund).
Michigan’s cap, established in 1993, applies to non-economic damages only. The default cap was initially $280,000, but with adjustments for inflation, it was raised to $465,900 in 2019.
This limit on non-economic damages applies in most Michigan medical malpractice cases, but the cap is significantly higher – $832,000 – for specific types of severe and permanent medical malpractice injuries, including paralysis resulting from damage to the brain or spinal cord, permanent cognitive impairment, and damage to reproductive organs resulting in the inability to procreate.
Of the 27 states that have medical malpractice damage caps, Michigan’s limits fall squarely in the middle. Virginia has the highest damage cap at $2.35 million, while Texas is the lowest at $250,000 per provider. You can find a complete state-by-state comparison here.
At Sommers Schwartz, we work closely with patients and their families to obtain full compensation for injuries and losses caused by all forms of medical negligence. Our seasoned team of attorneys, nurses, and experts will investigate your claim and determine the course of action to obtain the best possible outcome.
Please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group for a free consultation to review your case.
View all posts byKenneth T. Watkins
Kenneth T. Watkins is an accomplished trial attorney and Senior Shareholder with Sommers Schwartz. Over the course of his career, he has obtained numerous multimillion-dollar settlements. His achievements include one of the largest seven-digit medical malpractice cases in Macomb County in 2008, and his election to membership in the exclusive Million Dollar Verdict Club.