Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Why is there a limit on some Maryland malpractice damages?

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jun 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

When someone is responsible for causing injury or harm to someone else, they should be liable for the damage done. In a car accident, the driver who caused the accident is generally liable for paying for the cost of medical bills, car repair, and lost wages. However, there is a limit to other damages, like pain and suffering. Does Maryland not recognize the full value of suffering to an accident victim?

In a medical malpractice accident, the physical harm is only part of damage. The accident victim may continue to suffer physical pain, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and no longer be able to enjoy life like they could before the accident. Unfortunately for malpractice victims and their families, Maryland limits the amount of “non-economic damages,” a victim can recover from the negligent doctors and hospitals. 

Maryland Statute on Noneconomic Damages Cap

Maryland established a maxim award for noneconomic damages. 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. 

Noneconomic damages in a personal injury claim include the non-pecuniary losses and harms, including: 

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Mental anguish,
  • Emotional distress,
  • Physical impairment,
  • Disfigurement, 
  • Loss of consortium,
  • Inconvenience, and
  • Loss of quality of life.

Do Juries Know About the Limit on Maryland Noneconomic Damages?

The strange part about limiting noneconomic damages in injury cases is that the jury is not supposed to know about the limit. “In a jury trial, the jury may not be informed of the limitation.”

For example, imagine a birth injury claim that leaves a child suffering damage for the rest of their lives. Additionally, the parents may have to live with knowing that a doctor's mistake was responsible for harming their child's future. 

After a jury hears the case, the jury determines the doctor's mistake was responsible for $2 million in pain, suffering, loss of quality of life, and emotional distress. However, against the findings of the jury, the court can automatically reduce that award to the cap on damages, without even telling the jury. 

“If the jury awards an amount for noneconomic damages that exceeds the limitation established [...], the court shall reduce the amount to conform to the limitation.”

Do Other States Have a Cap on Noneconomic Damages?

Some states place a cap on noneconomic damages and some do not. For example, Pennsylvania does not have a statutory limit on noneconomic damages, except for claims against the state or local government. 

Some states that have passed noneconomic damages caps have had their courts rule the caps to be unconstitutional. Unfortunately for injury victims, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals found the cap on noneconomic damages was constitutional in Potomac Electric Co. v. Smith, 79 Md. App. 591, 558 A.2d 768 1989.

Why Is There a Cap on Malpractice Damages? 

Healthcare is a trillion-dollar industry in the U.S. In 2018, U.S. health care costs topped $3.65 trillion. The healthcare industry, including hospitals and insurance companies, want to protect their wealth, even if they are liable for injuring patients through medical mistakes and malpractice.  

Malpractice and Birth Injury Lawyers

If you have any questions about how to recover compensation after a medical mistake or suspected malpractice, it's critical to speak with a medical malpractice attorney who has experience with cases involving your types of injuries. To discuss your malpractice injury with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today. 

About the Author

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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