As expected, attorneys representing plaintiffs applauded the proposed legislation, which would triple Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages in civil cases for “catastrophic” injuries. On the other side, defense attorneys condemned the bill, saying “the higher potential recovery will come at the cost of patient care and higher consumer costs.
There is a difference between economic and non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case. Economic damages are easily quantified and calculated using precise values for things such as physical damage, lost wages, and medical bills. Conversely, non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other intangible injuries, all things that are not easily quantified and are completely subjective. Some examples of injuries that would fall under this proposed legislation include: “death, severe paralysis, severe brain or closed-head injury, amputation of arm, leg, hand, or foot, blindness, loss of reproductive organs, and major burns.”
Similar legislation was introduced in Maryland’s General Assembly last year, but it failed to pass. The current cap in Maryland for non-economic damages is $755,000 for medical malpractice cases, and close to $950,000 for all wrongful death medical malpractice cases.
The current law in Maryland for pain and suffering awards makes no distinction between victims suffering significant temporary injuries attributed to another’s negligence and victims enduring severe permanent injuries. If the proposed bill were to pass, there would be “fair compensation for the most catastrophically injured Marylanders.” In addition, if the cap were to increase for the most severe injuries, it would cause medical practitioners to act even more cautious which makes all Marylanders safer with fewer catastrophic injuries. Hospital systems in Maryland equate this tripling of the cap on damages to punitive damages. If Maryland hospitals are forced to pay these extremely high awards, they would not have the funds or the ability to take appropriate care of patients.
In addition to this proposed bill, another bill was also introduced that would lower the current non-economic damages cap, instead of tripling it. Hospital systems strongly favor this version of the bill, while plaintiff attorneys strongly oppose it. Just think, if you were to lose your eyesight as a result of a hospital’s negligence, the most you could recover in non-economic damages for pain and suffering and the like would, at most, be $755,000. That certainly does not seem like a fair amount for someone who is now blind to be able to live off of for the rest of their life. And any sort of decrease would negatively affect the victim.
If you or a family member is the victim of an injury caused by medical malpractice in Maryland, an experienced attorney from Portner & Shure can help you get the compensation you are entitled. If you would like a free legal consultation or if you would like more information on medical malpractice please feel free to contact our office at (301) 854-9000 or visit us on the web at http://www.portnerandshure.com/Medical-Malpractice/