Cooper Schall & Levy gives an overview of damage caps in medical malpractice cases.

Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

Under Pennsylvania law, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional violates his or her professional duty or standard of care. This is called committing “medical negligence.” The applicable standard of care in these kinds of cases is the generally accepted medical practices of a group of medical professionals in the same geographic region treating patients who suffer from the same or similar illness or injury. In other words, a cardiovascular surgeon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania would not be subject to the same standard of care as an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles, California.

If the breach of the standard of care directly resulted in harm to the patient, the treating medical professional may be held accountable for medical malpractice. A medical malpractice claim allows the injured patient to recover damages. Damages refer to the compensation a plaintiff will receive for the harm they have suffered.

Are there damage caps in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases?

There are several different types of damages available in medical malpractice cases. Compensatory damages include the economic and non-economic losses suffered by the plaintiff. These kinds of damages are intended to compensate them for the harm they suffered due to the negligence of another. Compensatory damages include:

  • Cost of medical care
  • Cost of future medical care
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

In Pennsylvania, there is no cap on compensatory damages. Plaintiffs are allowed to fully recover any losses they have incurred as a result of medical negligence. This is not the case in many states. Many other states place statutory limits on the recoverable amount of damages in medical malpractice cases. They justify this cap by saying it is intended to discourage plaintiffs from pursuing litigation against medical professionals. Unfortunately, this means that those plaintiffs who have been seriously injured by medical negligence are often unable to fully recover for the harm they have suffered and will likely continue to suffer indefinitely.

It is important to note, however, that, while Pennsylvania does not have a cap on compensatory damages, there is a cap on punitive damages in medical malpractice cases. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the plaintiff for losses sustained as a result of medical negligence. Instead, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant. Punitive damages are awarded on top of compensatory damages in an attempt to deter the defendant and others from committing medical negligence. 

Pennsylvania caps punitive damages at 3 times the compensatory damages award. This cap can be waived, however, if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted intentionally in causing the harm. An intentional act on the part of the treating medical professional in order to cause harm to the plaintiff, as opposed to negligent action or inaction that resulted in harm to the plaintiff, will allow the plaintiff to circumvent the punitive damages cap.

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

We rely on our treating medical professionals to take care of us. We come to them at our most vulnerable looking for help to get better. If a medical professional’s lapse in his or her duty to provide the level of care you deserve resulted in harm, you have the right to seek compensation by bringing a medical malpractice claim. The dedicated medical malpractice attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy are here to hold those medical professionals accountable for the harm they have done and to help see that you are properly compensated for your losses. Contact us today.