There is no compensatory cap in Oregon when it comes to economic damages that may be awarded to injured patients. The amounts of these payouts are increasing as more people seek compensation for their losses due to medical malpractice. Economic damages include, but are not limited to, monetary losses such as medical, hospital, and rehabilitative costs. The loss of income, including both past and future impairment of earning capacity are also considered economic damages.
Payouts are Increasing for Economic Damages
Payouts for medical malpractice suits involving economic damages are on the rise in Oregon. In 2016 alone there were 28.6 medical malpractice suits per 100,000 Oregon residents with an increase of 4.95% in award amounts. The total combined payout of these lawsuits was $42.9 million.
Though medical malpractice payouts are increasing for patients seeking economic damages claims, caps on non-economic damages claims can still prevent injured patients from being awarded amounts appropriate to their expense. Tort reform plays a major role in how personal injury cases are handled, including caps on damages.
Caps on Non-Economic Damages Have Impact on Injured Patients
There is currently a cap on non-economic damages that a plaintiff’s family can be awarded in a wrongful death medical malpractice case. The cap for non-economic damages in the State of Oregon is $500,000. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of care, companionship and comfort.
Oregon’s caps on non-economic damages have directly affected recent cases. A noteworthy example is Tyson Horton v. OHSU. In this case the injured patient was initially awarded $12,000,000. That sum was later reduced to $3,000,000 due to tort reform laws. There are many other examples where tort reforms caped the amount of monetary payout a defendant received. As a result, caps have lightened the burden of malpractice lawsuits on physicians and created a situation to where they are not held accountable for the safety of their practice. In this particular case, the injured patient was left with $2,000,000 dollars in medical bills beyond what they received after their initial payout was capped.
The Importance of Tort Reform on Damages Claims
Tort reform refers to legislative changes, for both laws that are proposed and laws that are passed, that would change the way personal injury cases work. “Tort” is the legal term for personal injury. The impact of tort reform on malpractice claims outcomes is significant due to the fact the proposed changes are often to the disadvantage of the injured patient.
Tort reform in the context of medical malpractice lawsuits, can cause issues. For example, in states such as California, plaintiffs are increasing unable to find lawyers to take on their malpractice cases. California currently has a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. In these cases, attorneys are typically paid a percentage of award amounts.
Since malpractice is expensive to prove, this cap on damages acts as a hindrance in lawyers taking on malpractice cases. And, as a result, few claims are brought against negligent medical staff, decreasing accountability in the medical system. As tort reform plays a major role in how medical malpractice claims are handled, it is imperative that medical malpractice lawyers are closely monitoring the system for anything that may negatively impact their clients.
Let Us Evaluate Your Case
Miller and Wagner will continue to fight for clients who are injured by the negligent acts of medical providers. If you or your loved one has suffered an injury from medical malpractice, contact one of our experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorneys. Our extensive history of working with and previously representing physicians gives us a unique perspective that will allow us to provide you with the best possible legal counsel.