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Roanoke, NC Times Editorial Slams Medical Malpractice Damages Cap

Posted on May 13, 2016
An anonymous opinion piece in the Friday, October 31 edition of the Roanoke Times spoke out against the $2 million maximum that medical malpractice victims can now collect as damages from doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies.  The $2 million damages cap tops out on July, and the Virginia State Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the cap several times in the recent past. It was established in 1999.

The main thrust of the editorial is that there are many cases in which the maximum $2 million amount will not cover the medical malpractice victim's full spectrum of damages, which would cover medical expenses, lost income, ongoing physical therapy, long-term disabilities, pain and suffering, and other non-economic costs. In addition, the limit on damages will become less and less appropriate and negatively impact more and more medical malpractice victims.

The article highlights the case of a Clifton Forge woman named Donita Franklin, who sued a doctor after a botched foot surgery. Although her doctor denied any kind of medical malpractice, Franklin and her lawyer won the case. A Roanoke jury awarded her $3.5 million in damages for her lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering, but due to the damages caps at the time, Franklin will only receive about half of that - $1.6 million. Her lawyer points out that the amount Franklin is awarded won't begin to cover the amount that his client lost due to the surgery - and that the damages cap renders cases like this unjust.  Even though she won her case, she may still end up in financial ruin, with assets like her house, car, and financial security hanging in the balance.

The piece also mentions infant cases of medical malpractice, and how it is so difficult to know how much such a young life is altered with doctors' mistakes - millions of dollars in lost wages, untold pain and suffering, and perhaps lifelong ongoing medical expenses. And yet all of these cases will not be able to exceed $2 million.

Furthermore, the author asks, why shouldn't doctors and their insurance companies be held responsible for their mistakes? If the cap was put into place to keep malpractice insurance premiums down, it was a bad idea in the first place since multiple studies show that damage caps have little to no effect on medical malpractice insurance costs.  Finally, the article asks the Virginia General Assembly to re-examine the particulars of this policy and take a more careful and
effective approach to medical malpractice reform in Virginia.

 

 

Randy E. Appleton
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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