Tort reform has been in the spotlight for several years, often with considerable debate and backlash. While there are a number of agendas and initiatives behind changes to our civil justice system, chief among them are damages caps, or limits on the amount of compensation victims are eligible to recover after being harmed by the negligent or wrongful acts of another. Often, these caps are implemented in medical malpractice cases.
Over the years, several states have implemented these caps, with courts in some states recently overturning them. However, Ohio still enforces laws that cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Non-economic damages encompass a range of emotional injuries and losses, such as past and future pain and suffering, loss of quality or enjoyment of life, loss of companionship, mental anguish, and more. In the context of serious harms and injustices, victims and families commonly suffer profound emotional injuries, which can quickly accumulate in the form of damages.
Just as with caps in other states, Ohio’s law has been criticized for unfairly limiting the rights of victims, and unfairly favoring health care providers and insurance companies. Even with these caps in place, it remains important for victims and families to work with proven medical malpractice attorneys who can help them take a full account of their damages, including their economic damages, and pursue the fullest recovery under law from the at-fault party.
Damages Caps & Victims’ Rights: Fighting for Justice
Medical malpractice damages caps were thrust into the spotlight following the recent introduction of a federal bill misleadingly named the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017” (HR 1215). While backers of the bill – notably large corporations with a financial interest in limiting payouts to victims – would like the public to believe that it enables access to safe and affordable health care, what it ultimately does is slash the rights of victims by tipping the scales in favor of the insurance and health care industries.
Under HR 1215, all states would be required to apply a federal cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, as well as cases involving nursing home injuries. This means victims and families who suffer at the hands of negligent doctors and health care providers would be entitled to no more than $250,000 for the non-economic damages they incurred. This cap would be even more restrictive than what is currently in place in Ohio, and which is already openly criticized, as victims may still be eligible to recover more than $250,000 in non-economic damages provided it does not exceed three times their economic damages.
If there is any consolation to damages caps, it is that they are being more harshly scrutinized by the general public, thanks in part to a number of awareness efforts. In fact, victims’ rights victories have already begun, with several states ruling against these types of caps in medical malpractice cases. In an opinion from the Florida Supreme Court, for example, presiding justices ruled that the caps were unconstitional because they were arbitrarily implemented and because they only victimize those who suffer the most severe losses and injuries. The justices also noted there was no evidence that caps reduced health care costs, as advocates as initially touted.
At Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, we encourage everyone to learn more about damages caps, how they harm victims and favor corporations, and why it is important to make their voices heard (visit www.takejusticeback.com to learn more). Our award-winning Cleveland medical malpractice lawyers also remain steadfast in supporting the victims of medical mistakes who place their trust in our team during difficult times. By leveraging our experience and passion, we strive to recover the maximum amount of compensation possible in each case we handle. Contact us if you have questions about medical malpractice or a possible case.