On May 9th, 2015, Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, signed a bill into law that will change not only the financial aspect of medical malpractice cases, but also the consequences that medical professionals will face upon error. This change could affect an unfortunate number of individuals, and it could—in turn—work in favor for the medical professionals that have performed the error. This new law applies only to lawsuits occurring in the state of Missouri.
This new law employs a cap on the amount of money that a person can receive following a medical malpractice lawsuit. For non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, the compensation can no longer exceed $400,000 dollars. For damages labeled “catastrophic”, this cap raises to $700,000. Some damages that would fall into this category include things such as paralysis, loss of vision, or brain injury. Overall, however, these categories are very broad, and the outcomes can vary based on specifics of each case.
For economic damages, these monetary caps do not apply. Economic damages, in a very general sense, refer to the medical bills needed to diagnose and treat the condition contracted by the medical malpractice event.
While these caps may seem like a negative effect to most victims of medical malpractice, there is one category of this law that may actually benefit people who would have, in the past, not gotten the full amount of compensation that they deserve. In wrongful death medical malpractice cases, before this law was enacted, a person could only receive $350,000 dollars. Now, upon Nixon’s signature of the bill, those affected by these types of cases can now receive up to $700,000 dollars worth of compensation of non-economic damages.
As with any change in law, there has been much opposition to the new medical malpractice compensation caps. The first oppositional claim is that this law is hurtful to patients. If a person has been mistreated or injured in some way due to the negligence of a lower standard of care of a medical professional, they will not only have hefty medical bills, but their life will be changed in some way. Every case is different, and every person reacts differently. With this in mind however, if an incident creates significant turmoil in a person’s life, this could warrant non-economical damages. However, depending on the specific case, these damages could be worth more than $400,000 dollars. With this new cap in place, this could mean that patients are not able to receive the full amount of fair compensation for everything that they have had to suffer through.
The second opposition lies in the idea that these caps will allow medical professionals to “get off the hook” more easily and not necessarily feel the severity of consequence that they should. If a doctor makes a mistake or is negligent in a severe way, but does not have to pay a price that accurately reflects the severity of the damage done, they may not feel as if it was as significant of an act as it was. Many medical malpractice cases change the lives of the patients forever, but the amount that the doctor needs to pay may not reflect that. Many argue that the less of a consequence the doctor feels, the less likely they are to be affected by it. In other words, if the medical professional is not greatly affected by a medical malpractice case, they are more likely to have a repeat offense. For example, if a someone who robbed a bank only had to pay a small fine to be off-the-hook, they are more likely to rob another bank in the future than if they had to spend years in prison following the first event. If doctors and medical professionals are not learning from their mistakes, these mistakes are likely to continue to happen in the future. Unfortunately in the medical malpractice area, this would mean more injured and mistreated individuals.
The third opposition surrounds the idea that no one can put a price tag on another person’s life. Economic damages are easy to value, because the compensation is in place to repay the injured for their medical expenses. Non-economic damages, however, are much more difficult to value. The overarching term for these damages is “pain and suffering”, but how does someone determine how much another person is suffering? Even after that is determined, how can you price how much that suffering is worth? Pain and suffering is not always something that just goes away. Oftentimes, people feel the repercussions of these types of incidents for the rest of their lives. Is there a way to determine how much a lifetime of suffering is worth? These are all questions that are being asked in opposition to this new law.
In the past, similar bills have been proposed but ended up failing. However, in these bills, the caps to how much compensation a person could receive were much lower. It could be argued that it wasn’t the idea behind the bill that didn’t pass, but instead the specifics—leading to this one successfully passing. There were caps to non-economic medical malpractice compensation in the past, but in July of 2012, these caps were invalidated because they were deemed unconstitutional. With the rough past that comes with compensation caps, it will be interesting to see the effects that Nixon’s new law creates. If anything, it will make people more aware of the difficulties surrounding medical malpractice lawsuits.
If you or a loved one has been mistreated or injured by a doctor or a medical care physician, you may be entitled to medical malpractice compensation. It is important to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to get started. At Finney Law Office, LLC, we want to help you through this process so you can receive the amount of compensation that you deserve. Call us today.