A Brief Look at Medical Malpractice Damage Caps in Pennsylvania

April 13, 2018

In many states, medical malpractice damages are statutorily limited so as to discourage injured plaintiffs from pursuing litigation against healthcare professionals — in the state of California, for example, there is a $250,000 cap placed on compensatory damages (the primary form of damages).  Damage cap limitations can have a significant effect on the cost-benefit analysis for an injured plaintiff.  If there is a set maximum on recovery, then the plaintiff might not only be prevented from being adequately compensated for their injuries, but they might also find that it simply isn’t worth going through the process of litigation.

Medical malpractice damages have been capped in a very limited manner in Pennsylvania.  The cap is specific enough that it does not generally act as a barrier-to-entry for medical malpractice litigation.  If you have suffered legitimate and provable losses due to the negligence of a healthcare professional, then it is almost certainly worth bringing a lawsuit against the defendant for damages (or at the very least, having your claim evaluated by a qualified medical malpractice attorney).

Pennsylvania Does Not Cap Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages account for the economic and non-economic losses sustained by the plaintiff, and are intended to “compensate” them for their various injuries — in other words, compensatory damages are intended to put the plaintiff in a position that approximates their status had they not been injured by the defendant.

In a medical malpractice lawsuit (as in other injury-based lawsuits), these damages can include medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, deterioration in one’s quality of life, and more.  Importantly, Pennsylvania does not cap compensatory damages.  Medical malpractice plaintiffs can therefore fully and adequately recover for their injuries.

The Punitive Damages Cap and How it Works

Pennsylvania is not without its damage caps, however.  In the medical malpractice context, the state of Pennsylvania caps punitive damages at 3 times the compensatory damages.  Further, in cases where the court awards punitive damages, 25 percent of the punitive damages award will be distributed to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Fund.

Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries, but are intended to deter the defendant (and others) from acting in a particular way.  For example, if a surgeon recklessly conducts a surgery because they would like to “get it over with” as soon as possible, then their actions may be egregious enough for the court to award punitive damages.

Punitive damages are multiplicative of compensatory damages, but the Pennsylvania cap — in conjunction with the 25 percent redistribution to the MCARE fund — can minimize the punitive damages award significantly.

You can avoid application of the punitive damages cap if you can show that the defendant healthcare professional intentionally cause you harm.  For example, if your doctor dislikes you and chose to prescribe you the wrong medication so that your illness would be left untreated, you would have a great argument for the defendant having intentionally caused harm.  The court might award punitive damages, and there would be no cap.

Contact an Experienced Easton Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Free Evaluation of Your Claims

Here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC, our attorneys have advocated on behalf of medical malpractice claimants for over three decades, helping them recover damages for the failure of their treating healthcare professionals to hold themselves to the proper standard of care.

We understand the unique challenges associated with medical malpractice litigation in Pennsylvania, and how to effectively represent claimants against well-reputed professionals who have the backing of prominent healthcare institutions and insurance companies — over the years, our approach to litigation has helped us secure significant and favorable results for our medical malpractice clients.

If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a healthcare professional, perhaps due to a botched procedure or a failure to diagnose a serious condition, then you may be entitled to damages in accordance with Pennsylvania medical malpractice law.  Call (888) 777-7098 today to get in touch with an experienced Easton medical malpractice attorney here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC.