Concerns about high medical malpractice verdicts have caused some states, including Texas, to adopt damage caps that limit the amount of money a plaintiff may recover or a defendant must pay. In Texas, such caps apply to what are known as noneconomic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering.
Damages in medical malpractice cases are divided into two categories: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages are those that compensate the plaintiff for bills and tangible losses incurred as a result of the injury. They include:
- Past and future medical, hospital, rehabilitative and similar expenses related to the injury
- Loss of income
- Loss of future earning capacity
Economic damages can generally be computed either by adding up the expenses and lost income the plaintiff has already sustained or by using an expert to calculate losses that are likely in the future.
Noneconomic damages are those that compensate the plaintiff for intangible losses, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship or services suffered by the victim’s family
Noneconomic damages are calculated in a number of ways, some of them applying a multiplier to the plaintiff’s actual monetary losses. But the amount is ultimately for the jury to determine and critics in the medical profession blame what they see as overly large verdicts on some juries being too sympathetic or generous.
Texas places a cap only on noneconomic damages in a medical malpractice case. The size of the cap depends on whom the plaintiff is suing. Each plaintiff may recover:
- $250,000 in noneconomic damages from any single health care institution (such as a hospital), but no more than $500,000 from all health care institutions named as defendants in the case
- A total of $250,000 in noneconomic damages from all physicians and other health care providers other than health care institutions
The maximum amount of noneconomic damages a plaintiff may recover is $750,000 if the jury holds more than one health care institution and at least one health care provider liable, but the cap may be lower in other cases.
The jury awards separate amounts for economic and noneconomic damages. If the plaintiff recovers no more than $250,000 in noneconomic damages, the caps have no impact. If the amount of noneconomic damages is greater than the cap, the judge reduces it accordingly.
The knowledgeable and seasoned medical malpractice lawyers at Lyons & Lyons in San Antonio, Texas are ready to answer your questions about whether you have a potential cause of action against a doctor or other healthcare provider. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 210-225-5251 or contact us online.