Patients rely on the expertise of medical professionals to diagnose and treat them for their ailments. If a physician fails to meet the accepted standard of care in their specialty and a patient is injured as a result, the patient has the right to seek compensation through a medical malpractice suit. If a bill that recently passed the Missouri Senate becomes law, the amount of that compensation may be limited.
The Senate voted this month to reinstate a damages cap that was overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court three years ago. In a 28-2 vote, state senators passed a bill to limit the non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, in lawsuits for medical malpractice. Under the Senate bill, this limit would be put at $400,000. For catastrophic injuries, the limit would be $700,000. For wrongful death cases, the existing cap would be raised from $350,00 to $700,000.
The Missouri House of Representatives passed its version of the bill last month. The Senate bill was a compromise between Republican and Democratic senators.
What is the significance of these caps? Supporters believe that without them, doctors would end up leaving the state due to higher insurance costs. Opponents of these measures generally argue that caps impose an unfair hardship on victims of medical errors.
Even with caps in place, injured patients should understand that they are still entitled to compensation for the injuries and damages suffered because of a medical error. The damages awarded could help them cover lost income, existing medical bills, and future medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering.
Source: The Kansas City Star, “Missouri Senate passes medical malpractice lawsuit limits,” March 13, 2015