Do West Virginia laws cap damages in medical malpractice cases?
Yes. Like many states, West Virginia has a statute on the books that places a limit or “cap” on the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice case. The controversial impact of laws like this is that, even where a plaintiff establishes the defendant’s liability for malpractice, there is a limit on the actual amount of damages the jury can award, regardless of the plaintiff’s specific losses.
West Virginia puts a $250,000 per-occurrence cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. This cap bumps up to $500,000 for non-economic damages if the medical malpractice resulted in certain catastrophic damages including wrongful death, permanent and serious disfigurement, or an injury that permanently prevents the plaintiff from being able to care for him/herself and perform life-sustaining activities. For the details, see West Virginia Code section 55-7B-8.
So, what are these all-important “non-economic damages”? In any injury case, non-economic damages include compensation for things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Non-economic damages are said to be more “subjective” from plaintiff to plaintiff, and they’re not so easy to capture with a dollar amount.
Remember that West Virginia does not cap economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Economic (sometimes called “special”) damages typically consist of payment for past and future medical care, reimbursement of lost income, compensation for lost earning capacity, and other financial losses that can be attributed to the defendant’s malpractice.
Learn more about Medical Malpractice Claims.
by: David Goguen, J.D.