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Premier Cleveland Medical Malpractice Attorneys Explain Caps on Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Caps on damages create difficultly for injured parties

When you or your family suffers a serious injury, the emotional toll is enormous. The emotional pain and mental trepidation can run deep. Unfortunately, the Ohio Legislature has passed a law which limits or “caps” the amount of monetary damages a victim of medical malpractice may recover in court. The Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm are knowledgeable, experienced litigators who understand how Ohio law on damage caps can impact your potential medical malpractice claim. We will advocate for the best possible outcome for you and your family, both financially and emotionally. You need closure and support as you and your family move on from a traumatic event caused by medical malpractice. The medical malpractice attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm can help you through this process and give you sound guidance.

What are caps on “noneconomic” damages?

If you or a family member is the victim of medical malpractice and you decide to file a lawsuit, then you must claim and prove damages. Damages in medical malpractice cases come only in the form of money. You cannot use a medical malpractice lawsuit to strip a doctor of his license. You can only seek monetary compensation for your injuries and losses. Monetary damages are limited by a specific law, Ohio Revised Code Section 2323.43.

Given the potential for death or seriously-debilitating injuries that may arise from medical malpractice, you might think that Ohio law would allow for all victims who have proven their case to be compensated fully, as determined by a jury. Unfortunately, that is not true. There are significant limits on what may be collected. The law divides monetary damages in a medical malpractice case into “economic” and “noneconomic” damages. Economic damages are unlimited in a medical malpractice case. “Noneconomic” damages, however, are limited to $350,000.00 per victim and $500,000.00 per case in most circumstances, and $500,000.00 per victim or $1,000,000.00 per case in cases of severe disability or disfigurement. In the face of lifelong struggles after serious injury, these sums are often insufficient.

What is the difference between economic and noneconomic monetary damages in a medical malpractice case?

Economic and noneconomic damages or “loss” are defined terms under Ohio law. A person’s “economic loss” includes lost wages, salary, medical costs, rehabilitation costs, and the cost of accommodations as a result of the injury. A person’s “‘noneconomic loss” includes things that cannot be measured in dollars and cents, things such as loss of companionship, education, training, mental anguish, and other “intangible losses.” As you might imagine, this means that people who do not have a particularly high income (such as homemakers or retirees) often receive far lower monetary damages in court – even if they prove that they were victims of medical malpractice.

Why do caps on noneconomic damages even exist?

If noneconomic losses are intangible, why limit them to a tangible number? Why not allow the collective wisdom of unbiased jurors to determine what is right. After all, we allow jurors to decide whether to take away a person’s liberty for an alleged crime. Certainly, jurors are capable of determining an appropriate amount of money to compensate someone for a significant injury. The reason given for these so-called “tort reforms” is that monetary judgments against negligent health professionals get out of control without caps on noneconomic damages. Yet, if a jury thinks pain and suffering are worth millions of dollars, how is this unreasonable? Remember, damages are only assessed against medical professionals who are already proven to have injured someone through unreasonable carelessness.

The answer to that question is generally that the cost of these judgments would push insurance premiums too high. Furthermore, advocates of caps on damages assert that medical professionals are free to practice better medicine without the threat of “outrageous” lawsuits. In reality, these justifications have never been proven. In fact, health insurance premiums around the country have continued to rise despite tort reform, and there is evidence that tort reform has resulted in a poorer quality of medicine and increased patient harm.

Contact a knowledgeable Ohio medical malpractice attorney today for more information

Caps on noneconomic damages are an unfortunate reality in Ohio, but having the right legal advocate on your side can make a big difference in getting the support you and your family need and deserve. The attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm serve victims of medical malpractice in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Lorain, Akron, and throughout Ohio. We offer free initial consultations, so contact us today by phone at 216-687-0900 or online.