Is there a cap on medical malpractice damages in Maryland?

Question

Is there a cap on medical malpractice damages in Maryland?

Answer

Yes. Like a number of states, Maryland has passed a law that places a limit or "cap" on certain kinds of damages (compensation) that are available to a plaintiff who has been successful in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Currently, Maryland has a cap on non-economic damages in any malpractice claim arising from the same medical injury, regardless of how many defendants (hospital, doctor, or other licensed health care provider), claimants, or beneficiaries there are.

This cap, which is set by Code of Maryland section 3-2A-09, varies depending on when the lawsuit is/was filed:

  • for medical malpractice lawsuits filed in 2016, the cap on non-economic damages is $770,000
  • for lawsuits filed in 2017, the cap is $785,000 and
  • for lawsuits filed in 2018, the cap is $800,000.

Since 2009, the cap has been set to increase by $15,000 each year. That means, assuming no future legislative changes, you can add $15,000 per year for lawsuits filed beyond 2018. So, for example, the cap is $815,000 for lawsuits filed in 2019, $830,000 for cases filed in 2020, and so on. For medical malpractice lawsuits filed prior to 2016, subtract $15,000 for each year (so the cap is $755,000 for cases filed in 2015, $740,000 for 2014 cases, et cetera).

Note that there is a special cap formula for Maryland medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death, where there are two or more "claimants or beneficiaries." In those cases, according to section 3-2A-09, total non-economic damages for all actions cannot exceed 125% of that year's cap (as listed above), "regardless of the number of claims, claimants, plaintiffs, beneficiaries, or defendants."

So, what are non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case? It is a category of damages that includes compensation for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and other negative effects of the medical negligence. These kinds of damages aren’t easily captured by a dollar figure, and they are more subjective from plaintiff to plaintiff.

It’s important to note that Maryland's damages cap has no effect on the other main category of damages available to a med mal plaintiff: economic damages. Those include compensation for past medical expenses, payment for ongoing medical care, reimbursement for lost income, and compensation for any harm to the plaintiff’s ability to earn a living. Maryland has no cap for these kinds of damages in a medical malpractice case.

by: , J.D.

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