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Eric T. Chaffin
Eric T. Chaffin
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Medical Malpractice Caps and Your Settlement

4 comments

Here is a common scenario: You or a family member is suffering from a physical ailment that requires surgery. You do your research, get all of the correct referrals, pick a date and go in for the procedure. After surgery something goes horribly wrong. You or your family member starts feeling symptoms that are worse than before the surgery, or you suffer serious complications. You find a new doctor who explains the previous doctor’s mistake and asks you why the previous doctor did what he or she did. Through all of this you are footing the bill and can’t imagine how you will manage to pay everything off.

Medical malpractice suits in the United States are growing and unfortunately several state officials have caught on. An article in the Huffington Post provides alarming data on medical malpractice “caps” on non-economic damages in several states. The author states that these “caps” “apply no matter how much merit a case has, or the extent of the misconduct by the hospital, or the severity of the injury or loss.” Non-economic damages include compensation for the injury, or pain and suffering. Economic damages are the out-of-pocket expenses you incur due to the medical malpractice. The article argues that women, children and the elderly are impacted the most. An example cited in the article is one of sexual assault injuries. In that case the actual medical bill, or economic damage, is minimal compared to the lasting impact and emotional toll the sexual assault took on the victim.

An article in the Milbank Quarterly, “Damages Caps in Medical Malpractice,” found that medical malpractice caps were created due to “affordability crisis in the medical liability insurance market.” Voters have either been for these “caps” or completely against them like voters in Oregon in 2004 when residents voted down a noneconomic damages cap of $500,000. Other states have “caps” from $250,000-$650,000. The authors conclude that it is not clear whether or not these “caps” have reduced insurance premiums for malpractice.

Medical Malpractice Claims

There are several types of medical malpractice claims. The scenario outlined above is just one example. Others include:

• Emergency room errors
• Wrong diagnosis
• Mixing up patient records, x-rays
• Failure to detect symptoms of a serious medical event
• Injuries suffered during childbirth
• Surgical mistakes
• Wrongful death

You have to be an advocate for your healthcare. If you feel that your doctor has made a serious mistake with you or a loved ones treatment, you need to speak up. You deserve to be compensated for any injuries and damages you incur due to someone else’s mistake.

4 Comments

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  1. jc says:
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    Here is a common scenario. Eric Chaffin publishes a falsehood so he can increase his paycheck. Yep, right in this article Eric, with no statistical report, implies that it is common to have a bad medical result which would require “pain & suffering” damages. Eric, in Ohio, we have had pain and suffering caps for the past 8 years. In those years, 27,785 medical malpractice cases have been resolved (80% with no payment to the plaintiff). According to the Ohio Department of Insurance, in only 13 cases out of those 27,785 cases were caps applied! That is less than 2 cases a year! Certainly not an every day event as Eric implies. What really upsets Eric is what happened in Wisconsin where a very rare mega verdict of $25 million, will be reduced to $9 million because of “pain and suffering” caps. Ouch! That is a reduction in the plaintiff attorneys fee from $10 million down to $4 million. That is what really has Eric Chaffin in a tizzy!

  2. Michael End says:
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    The person who commented on this article is wrong about the attorney fee charged in the Wisconsin case. Wisconsin law regulates attorney fees in medical negligence cases to one-third of the first million dollars and 20% of anything beyond $1 million. The actual noneconomic damages in the Mayo case were $16.5 million, $15 million in compensation for the lady who lost all four limbs and $1.5 million for her husband. The attorney fee for that portion of the verdict would be $3.3 million, because the other damages for past and future medical expenses are not affected by the $750,000 cap on noneconomic damages, Thus, if the cap were enforced, the attorney would receive $150,000 instead of $3.3 million. Let’s see how the cap would affect Mr. and Mrs. Mayo. Instead of receiving a recovery, after attorney fees, of $13.2 million, the cap would reduce their recovery to $600,000. Does that seem fair to you, that $600,000 fully compensates a lady who lost all four limbs and her husband? Caps only affect the most seriously injured people, not people whose compensation is less than the cap amount. Does it make sense that theoretical savings brought by a cap rely on depriving only the most seriously injured people of fair compensation?

  3. jc says:
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    Thank you Mr. End for explaining Wisconsin malpractice fee arrangements. Other states should do this. I do think your numbers are off for the quadruple amputee Wisconsin Woman.
    First of all, Wisconsin Woman (WW) was awarded $9,000,000 medical expenses and damages. On top of that she and her husband got an additional $16,500,000 in “pain and suffering” damages. I expect on appeal the $16.5 million will be reduced to $1.5 million ($750k for husband & wife) for a total award of $10,500,000. Using your figures the plaintiff attorney would get $5,233,000 and WW would get >$20 million should the $25,500,000 verdict stand. If the Appeals Court reduces the judgement to conform to Wisconsin Law, then the plaintiff attorney would get $2,233,000 and the WW would get > $8,000,000. Those figures sound fair to me. Think about it. If WW was a quadruple amputee because an uninsured drunk motorist hit her, she would get nothing!