Medical malpractice victims often hear that the law limits the amount of money an injured party can recover. This causes significant worry and many forego litigation out of fear that it is not worth the trouble. Understanding the legal cap on damages can help injured parties overcome this concern.
There are two general types of damages available to an injured person: economic damage, and noneconomic damage.
Economic damage includes any monetary loss that the injured party has suffered, or will suffer, as the result of the defendant’s negligence. That may include: past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, and the cost for any future care needed to take care of the injured party.
In cases involving significant permanent injury, the economic loss caused by an injury can be astronomical. In some instances defendants may be required to pay sufficient money to provide a wheelchair accessible home, or provide 24 hour attendant care for the injured party.
Economic damage is not capped! You are entitled to all your necessary monetary expenses that were caused by the defendant’s negligence. The attorneys at G. Eric Nielson and Associates work tirelessly to ensure that you obtain compensation for all the monetary expenses that are associated with your injury.
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate an injured party for the pain, suffering, and inconvenience associated with the injury they sustained. These damages cannot be calculated, and are generally determined by a jury. This is the only type of damage that is subject to the statutory cap on damages.
Utah law provides:
(1) In a malpractice action against a health care provider, an injured plaintiff may recover non-economic losses to compensate for pain, suffering, and inconvenience. The amount of damages awarded for non-economic loss may not exceed:
(a) for a cause of action arising before July 1, 2001, $250,000;
(b) for a cause of action arising on or after July 1, 2001 and before July 1, 2002, the limitation is adjusted for inflation to $400,000;
(c) for a cause of action arising on or after July 1, 2002, and before May 15, 2010 the $400,000 limitation described in Subsection (1)(b) shall be adjusted for inflation . . . ; and
(d) for a cause of action arising on or after May 15, 2010, $450,000.
A cause of action “arises” when the injured party “discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury, whichever first occurs . . .” Most cases today will have a $450,000 cap on non-economic damages.
The cap on non-economic damages is a matter of hot debate amongst personal injury attorneys, and has been challenged as unconstitutional. The Utah Supreme Court has yet to rule on this issue.
No amount of money can ever fully compensate for the loss suffered by medical negligence. Unfortunately, seeking financial compensation for medical negligence is the only tool we have to hold negligent healthcare providers accountable for their conduct.
If you have questions about the value of your case, please contact an attorney at G. Eric Nielson and Associates. We will work together to determine the damage you have legally sustained and obtain just compensation.