Why Was Michigan’s Medical Malpractice Damage Caps Raised in 2019?

In January 2019 the Department of Treasury revised the Medical Malpractice Damage Caps in Michigan, and published a document entitled “Limitation on noneconomic damages and product liability determination on economic damages.” Michigan caps are particularly complex compared to other states, and it is best to discuss it with your medical malpractice lawyer at our law firm if you plan to file a medical malpractice claim against a medical professional or anyone involved with your health care.

What is a Medical Malpractice Damage Cap?

Limits or caps were implemented in approximately half the states across the country as part of tort reform and are now state law.. The caps vary from state to state, and in some states, they were successfully challenged as unconstitutional and abolished.

Caps on damages in medical malpractice cases can apply to total damages (umbrella cap) or either a cap on non-economic damages or economic damages. Some include punitive damages while others do not.

Economic damages include any medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, or lost opportunities resulting from the injury. This may include past medical care, ongoing medical care, and any other measurable financial losses or expenses.

Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, anxiety, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life. These are more difficult to prove, as they are less tangible.

Michigan’s Medical Malpractice Cap

First established in 1993, and originally capped at $280,000 in damages awarded to injured patients, the cap in Michigan applies to noneconomic damages only. This is described in the Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.1483.

In January 2019, this cap was adjusted for inflation to $465,900 based on the consumer price index calculated in cumulative percentage annual increases.

However, Michigan separates specific types of injuries that are severe or permanent into a different category, and that cap is significantly higher at $500,000 cap originally, adjusted to $832,000.

This higher cap applies to a range of circumstances, where the patient suffered catastrophic injuries or permanent damage to a vital organ, for example:

  • permanent cognitive impairment, which effectively renders the patient unable to make independent life decisions or perform activities of daily living independently.
  • paralysis resulting from damage to the brain or spinal cord.
  • damage to reproductive organs, which leaves the patient unable to procreate.

In the event of the death of the patient, it will become a wrongful death suit. A settlement is achieved during wrongful death cases and is divided amongst family members.

For product liability, the same caps apply, extended in the case of death or permanent loss of a vital body organ.

In addition, Michigan provides for economic losses that cannot be calculated by the trier of fact, to be based on the average median family income as adjusted by the state treasurer, now set for 2019 at $72,799.

How Michigan Compares to Other States

There are 27 states with Medical Malpractice Caps, the highest being Virginia at $2.35 million, and the lowest being Texas, which limits damages to a $250,000 cap per provider.

Some states, like Massachusetts, caps the damages but lifts it entirely for particularly debilitating injuries. Nebraska includes a provision to lift caps if the defendant’s malpractice caused by an intentional act, gross negligence or malice. Tennessee increases the cap for catastrophic events.

Why do States impose Medical Malpractice Caps?

Nothing in life is for free, and in the end no matter what the award, someone must pay for it. In most cases, this falls to the insurance companies, whom will recover the high pay-outs by increasing all their customers’ premiums, and extraordinarily large awards can negatively affect the local state economy through the knock-on effects of these payments.

If you live in Michigan, and you have suffered injury, call Eileen Kroll, a Registered Nurse and Personal Injury trial attorney, at Cochran, Kroll & Associates P.C., at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-779-7331) for a free evaluation of your case and further assistance. As a member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Eileen devotes her time and resources to fight for victim’s rights. She works tirelessly to maximize the outcome of each case. Our law firm never charges a fee unless we win your case.

Nikole has a special interest in medical-legal issues and holds post-basic degrees in medical law and business. She has developed quality improvement and safety plans for many practices and facilities to prevent medical-legal issues and teaches several courses on data protection and privacy, legal, medical examinations and documentation, and professional ethics. She has been writing professionally on legal, business, ethics, patient advocacy, research and medico-legal issues in articles, white papers, business plans, and training courses for over thirty-five years.




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