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Does Pennsylvania Have Caps on Medical Malpractice Damages?  

If a patient sustains an injury due to the preventable mistakes of a medical practitioner in Pennsylvania, he or she has the right to file a medical malpractice claim. This type of lawsuit can be filed against an individual health care provider or a hospital or other facility to seek financial compensation (also known as damages) for losses suffered. Pennsylvania does not have caps on economic or noneconomic medical malpractice damages.


What Types of Damages Are Available in a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Medical malpractice is a term used to describe negligence by a health care professional, such as a doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or nurse. Negligence is the failure to adhere to the standards of care expected of the health care provider in the same or similar circumstances. Damages in a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawsuit refer to the monetary compensation that can be obtained by the victim or victim’s family to make up for the harm caused by the defendant’s negligence.

There are three main types of damages available in a medical malpractice claim:

  1. Economic damages: compensation for the financial losses incurred due to medical malpractice, such as lost wages, medical bills, home modifications and other out-of-pocket expenses.
  2. Noneconomic damages: compensation for the non-financial losses incurred by the victim or victim’s family, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
  3. Punitive damages: This type of damages is intended to punish a defendant for especially wrongful acts involving a wanton disregard for the safety of others and to deter the defendant from similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages are only awarded in rare medical malpractice cases involving willful or wanton conduct, or reckless indifference to the rights of others, on the part of a medical provider.

The precise types of damages that may be available in your claim depend on the circumstances. Factors involved in determining a case’s value include the severity of the patient’s injury, whether the patient will suffer long-term consequences, the actions of the defendant and the insurance coverage available.

What Is a Damage Cap?

A damage cap is an arbitrary statutory limit on how much financial compensation a plaintiff can be awarded in a civil claim. It is a law that exists in many states to restrict or “cap” the damages available regardless of the extent of the injured victim’s actual harm. Caps disadvantage the most seriously injured victims of negligence and largely benefit insurance companies, reducing their responsibility to fully compensate for the harm caused by doctors and other health providers whom they insure.

Does Pennsylvania Have Damage Caps on Med Mal Claims?

Pennsylvania does not cap the compensatory damages that a plaintiff can recover in a medical malpractice case. Even if the legislature attempted to enact such a cap, any such legislation would violate the Pennsylvania constitution.  Therefore, any victim of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania can be fully compensated for his or her damages as long as the negligent parties have sufficient insurance or assets.

In those very rare cases where a plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages, Pennsylvania does limit the punitive damages that can be recovered against an individual physician unless the physician’s misconduct is found to be intentional. That limit is 200 percent of the compensatory damages award. If the economic and noneconomic damages in a medical malpractice case combined equal $1,000,000, for example, punitive damages recoverable from the individual physician may not exceed $2,000,000. There is no limit on the amount of punitive damages recoverable against hospitals or other categories of defendants, although 25 percent of any punitive damages award in a medical malpractice claim must be paid to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund under state law.

Although rarely applicable in medical malpractice cases, Pennsylvania’s sovereign immunity statutes cap the damages recoverable in a lawsuit against a state government agency to $250,000 and a local agency to $500,000. Punitive damages are not recoverable at all in cases against the Commonwealth or local government agencies.

For more information about the damage rules that may apply to your medical malpractice case, contact an attorney in Philadelphia. A lawyer at Youman & Caputo can analyze the potential value of your case and help you pursue maximum financial compensation available under Pennsylvania law.