Medical care is expensive and the costs are continually increasing, making good insurance coverage increasingly essential for patients. Solving the problem is not an easy matter, but that isn't stopping lawmakers from trying. One of the efforts states have been undertaking for some time is "tort reform," particularly in the area of medical malpractice litigation.
A number of states have been successful in passing tort reform measures aimed at reducing the costs of medical malpractice on the health care system. One of the most common measures states have passed is caps on non-economic damages, though states have passed other measures as well, such as requiring that plaintiffs obtain a signed statement from a qualified expert regarding their claims and implementing a pre-litigation panel review process.
Of the tort reform measures states have been passed, non-economic damages caps have been argued to be the most effective. Maryland is among the states which have passed a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice litigation. In 2017, the limitation is set at $845,000. Non-economic damages, for those who aren't familiar with the term, refer to damages that are not readily quantifiable in terms of dollars. They are contrasted with economic damages, which include things like medical costs and lost wages. Noneconomic damages can be particularly important in cases where economic damages don't adequately account for the losses the plaintiff has suffered.
The fact that there is a limitation on non-economic damages in medical malpractice litigation is important, because plaintiffs and their attorneys need to carefully consider the potential payout of litigation prior to investing time, energy and resources into pursuing a case. In our next post, we'll continue looking at the issue of tort reform, both in Maryland and recent efforts at the federal level.