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Raising The Outdated Caps On Pain And Suffering

A medical mistake can cause years of pain and suffering. Unfortunately, many states limit the amount of noneconomic damages the injury victim can claim, including a cap on pain and suffering. According to lawmakers, this is intended to reduce the burden of frivolous lawsuits. However, it benefits insurance companies at the expense of injury victims and their families.

As we’ve highlighted before, different states have different damage limits on medical malpractice lawsuits. Some have adjusted caps and others have no limits. California has one of the most outdated noneconomic damages caps in the country, not changing since 1975. A new ballot initiative may finally allow injury victims in California to recover fair compensation after a medical error. 

California’s Pain and Suffering Cap

In 1975, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a damages cap for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits. The cap was limited to $250,000, and was intended to deter frivolous claims against doctors and hospitals. It has been 45 years since the arbitrary limit was put into place, and since that time, that amount of money accounts for 80% less value because of inflation. 

A new ballot measure proposes increasing the cap to about $1.2 million, and adjusting the cap base on inflation. Additionally, the law would allow juries to award a higher amount for cases involving death or catastrophic injury. The law would also allow for awarding of attorney’s fees in those cases.

Under California’s ballot initiative laws, a proposed measure must get signatures amounting to at least 5% of voters who voted in the previous governor election. In this case, the proposal needed more than 620,000 signatures and about 900,000 signatures were collected.

Maryland Pain and Suffering Cap Already Adjusted

Maryland also has a cap on non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. Under Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-2A-05, “an award or verdict under this subtitle for noneconomic damages for a cause of action arising between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2008, inclusive, may not exceed $650,000.” 

The limitation increases by $15,000 each year, beginning January 1, 2009. As of January 1, 2020, the cap on non-economic damages is $875,000. In 2021, the cap on non-economic damages will be $890,000, and so on, unless Maryland changes the law on non-economic damages. 

No Cap on Pain and Suffering in Pennsylvania

There is not a statutory cap on pain and suffering damages in Pennsylvania. In a medical malpractice case, the jury can consider a variety of factors to determine the amount of financial compensation for the plaintiff’s physical pain and emotional trauma, including: 

  • The health and life of the victim before the injury; 
  • The age of the victim; 
  • The type of injuries that the victim suffered at the hands of the negligent medical professional;
  • How the victim’s injury is affecting the person’s life at the present moment; and 
  • How the victim’s injuries will affect the person’s for the rest of their life.

Amount of Damages in Your Malpractice Claim

Whether or not your state puts a limit on medical malpractice damages, you deserve compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one suffered an injury caused by a medical mistake, talk to experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian. Contact our law office online or by calling (800) 529-6162.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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