Posted in Medical Malpractice on February 19, 2021
If you or a loved one gets injured as a result of an act of preventable negligence on the part of a health care practitioner, you can pursue justice and financial compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim. In West Virginia, as is the case in many states, state law caps or limits the amount of damages you can recover.
A damage cap is a controversial law that limits how much financial compensation an injured party (plaintiff) can receive when going up against an at-fault party (defendant) for a careless, negligent, reckless or wrongful act.
A damage cap restricts how much money is available to the plaintiff, regardless of how much his or her damages are actually worth. A damage cap has the power to reduce a plaintiff’s award even if a jury grants a higher amount during a personal injury trial.
The main reason behind damage caps is to prevent damage to the economy. It allows important institutions, such as hospitals and government agencies, to avoid large payouts that may force them to go bankrupt. For this reason, damage caps are most commonly used in cases against health care providers and government entities. Placing a limit on the amount of money a plaintiff can potentially make on a medical malpractice case also discourages frivolous or fraudulent lawsuits, keeping the justice system more efficient.
Currently, West Virginia limits damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000 per claim. However, this cap only applies to noneconomic losses, not economic losses. Noneconomic losses describe intangible losses, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and lost quality of life. Economic damages are tangible losses, such as medical expenses and losses of income.
According to West Virginia’s damage cap, no medical malpractice claim can result in more than $250,000 in noneconomic damages. There is an exception in certain cases, however, if medical malpractice caused the victim a catastrophic injury or wrongful death. Catastrophic injuries include permanent disabilities and serious disfigurement or scarring. Any injury that prevents a plaintiff from being independent and performing life-sustaining activities him/herself could bump the noneconomic damage cap up to $500,000.
It is also worthwhile to note that West Virginia has an additional cap on punitive damages. A plaintiff in West Virginia cannot receive more than the greater amount of four times the compensatory damage award or $500,000.
Many states have ruled damage caps unconstitutional and barred them from practice. Legal challenges to damage caps were brought and won in these states based on the argument that they went against the state’s constitution. Challenges often argued that damage caps violate a plaintiff’s right to a jury trial, restrict his or her access to courts, and/or deny substantive due process.
Whether or not challenges to damage caps succeed depends on the specific language in that state’s constitution. West Virginia’s damage cap on medical malpractice cases has already survived a challenge based on the grounds of unconstitutionality. Currently, this cap is still in place and may apply to you if you file a medical malpractice case. However, state laws are constantly changing. Contact an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney for an in-depth case review.
If you wish to maximize the amount you receive for your serious injuries from a negligent doctor or hospital in West Virginia, at least up to the state’s damage cap, hire a medical malpractice lawyer. A lawyer can help you negotiate with an insurance company for an amount that adequately covers your injuries and other losses. If negotiations fail, your lawyer can take your malpractice case to trial instead. A lawyer will do everything possible on your behalf to achieve top results for your medical malpractice case, even with the state’s damage cap.