Michigan readers may know that there is a cap in Michigan on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Non-economic damages refer to damages which are not readily measurable in monetary terms, and include things like pain and suffering, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life.
As of last January, plaintiffs are limited to $280,000 in non-economic damages, unless certain exceptions apply, in which case the limit is raised to $500,000. These exceptions include cases where the plaintiff suffers: a brain or spinal cord injury resulting in functional loss of one or more limbs; permanent cognitive impairment leaving him or her unable to make independent, responsible life decisions and permanently unable to carry out ordinary daily activities; and cases where there is permanent loss or damage to reproductive organs resulting in an inability to procreate.
Limitations on non-economic damages can be a big deal in medical malpractice cases where the qualifying economic damages are relatively small and don’t do justice to the harm suffered by the patient. This can happen in cases where the patient had a low-paying job at the time of the accident and in cases where the injury is very serious and permanent, but doesn’t require a drastic amount of ongoing medical treatment. In such cases, non-economic damages help to ensure the patient is fairly compensated.
Typically, limitations on non-economic damages and other tort reform measures occur at the state level, but lawmakers in the House of Representatives are reportedly considering a measure that would impose limitations on non-economic damages at the federal level. In our next post, we’ll look at this measure, how it could impact patients harmed by negligent physicians, and the importance of working with experienced legal counsel to build the strongest possible damages case.
Source: State of Michigan Department of the Treasury, Limitation on Noneconomic Damages and Product Liability Determination on Economic Damages, January 25, 2016.