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Medical malpractice case highlights problems with damage caps

On Behalf of | Dec 3, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

We have previously written on this blog about just how disastrous it can be when physicians and hospitals discharge patients too early, without properly monitoring them or correctly diagnosing and treating them. There have been far too many stories about patients who die or suffer permanent disabilities within hours of being discharged from a hospital or emergency room.

One such case was the subject of a recent medical malpractice verdict in Nebraska. The verdict is the largest of its kind in state history, but will likely be greatly reduced due to what are called “damage caps.”

Hospital allegedly failed to treat child’s brain injury

In 2017, an 11-month-old girl suffered head trauma after an accidental fall in her daycare classroom. The girl’s parents took her to the hospital, where she initially received proper care. Unfortunately, a different doctor took over the case and discharged the family. Within 48 hours, the girl had suffered several major seizures resulting in permanent brain damage. She is now blind and confined to a wheelchair, with symptoms that are essentially a form of cerebral palsy.

Major jury verdict will likely be reduced

After hearing the case, a jury recently awarded a total of $26 million to the family. Unfortunately, under Nebraska’s damage caps, the jury award will likely be reduced to $4.5 million. That may sound like a lot of money, but an attorney for the family told news sources that it will likely be inadequate to cover the child’s lifetime of medical bills and other costs.

Alaska also limits available damages in medical malpractice cases

Only about a dozen states have laws that impose “caps” on the amount of compensation plaintiffs can receive for personal injury, and Alaska is among them. The state’s laws apply primarily to medical malpractice cases, and to non-economic damages specifically.

This means that plaintiffs are not limited in their ability to recoup economic losses related to their injury (such as medical bills and lost wages), but there are limits on damages like “pain and suffering,” which don’t have an objective dollar value. Alaska law also bars punitive damages, which are payouts intended to punish the defendant and potentially deter similar behavior in the future.

Do not hesitate to seek compensation for your injuries

While damage caps can lead to a very unfair outcome for plaintiffs in some cases (like the one mentioned above), they should not prevent you from seeking compensation if you’ve been seriously injured by medical negligence. Economic damages alone can be substantial, and victims of medical malpractice may need all of the financial help they can get after a devastating injury.