Is There a Cap to Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in PA?
By Space Coast Daily // January 28, 2021
So you are considering pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit in PA, but you are not entirely sure certain details about it.
One of the most common of which is how much a person can be awarded from such a lawsuit if they did succeed, and for good reason; after all, medical costs can be incredibly pricy, and the last thing you want to do is fret that you will not be able to cover your medical costs incurred due to the medical malpractice. So we are going to answer that ever-present question here.
Understanding the cap on medical malpractice lawsuits in PA
The way medical malpractice caps are handled will inevitably vary from state to state, as of course, they are all run by different people with different political ideologies that they subscribe to.
Pennsylvania handles things in a particular way; namely, when you are filing for a medical malpractice claim, there is actually no cap when it comes to suing for the actual costs of the damages that are incurred.
Before explaining where the caps start, let’s look at the kinds of things you can sue a doctor for medical malpractice and how things are ultimately handled with the payout of the damages.
First, you need to make sure that your medical malpractice claim goes forward before the statute of limitations runs out, which is two years after the defendant health care provider caused the alleged damages.
Once you’ve done that, you can then choose what kind of things you want to sue for. Further, you may also be wondering whether your claim is even valid as a medical malpractice one.
The thing of it is, so long as the person is a licensed medical provider, then you should be able to file said claim. This includes medical doctor, physical therapist, mental health professional, or a nurse.
All medical malpractice claims made in Pennsylvania are done under the purview of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (“MCARE”).
One thing that this act takes care to do is to ensure that any healthcare provider or hospital under its umbrella has a minimum of $500,000 in insurance coverage in order to potentially respond to these medical malpractice cases.
It also helped to create a fund to help ensure proper compensation is given in medical malpractice cases. You can sue for multiple things, including the medical costs you have incurred as a result of the alleged medical malpractice.
In addition to that, however, the defendant may be required to pay for the costs of lost work if the medical damages prevented you from performing your job as normal or ultimately reduced how much money you can earn.
In Pennsylvania, if you have damages that will affect your livelihood and potential earnings in the future, you will have damages awarded based on estimates of what you would have likely earned in your lifetime. Medical costs that are expected to persist for a long or even indefinite time will also factor into the payouts.
A licensed medical professional is likely going to want to settle this out of court, as they are going to want to keep the cost of the case as low as possible.
However, it is important that when you are dealing with a settlement that you do not allow them to lowball you to the point that the payout you receive from the settlement is lower than you feel that you are entitled to receive.
One of the best, and most advisable, ways to ensure that you do not get taken for a ride by someone with a lot more money, power, and time, is to hire an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice claims. By having someone with good experience and knowhow on your side, they can impart that experience and knowledge onto you and protect you from being taken advantage of.
Not only that, but a good attorney in your corner can help maximize how much money you can get out of this. Arguments that the defendant may make to try to convince you to take less money are going to be less effective than if they were directed at an attorney.
What damages are capped?
The one thing that you cannot get too much out of in a medical malpractice case brought about due to negligence is punitive damages. Essentially, the cap exists because unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are there to, well, punish, which creates a tangible cap, whereas compensatory damages run the gamut.
This may cause you to feel frustrated if you feel that this is an unfair limitation; despite that initial impression, the cap is actually a lot more reasonable than it may seem at first. The best thing about the cap is that it is not a hard number that it is capped at. Instead, it is based on a percentage of the compensatory damages.
Punitive damages cannot be more than 200 percent of the compensatory costs. So if your compensatory costs ended at, say, two million dollars, punitive damages could not be any higher than four million dollars.
Furthermore, you will not get all of the punitive damages; indeed, 25 percent of the punitive costs go to MCARE, while the remaining 75 percent goes to you. That 25 percent helps MCARE better tackle medical malpractice cases and ensure compensation reaches people.