Illinois's Cap for Medical Malpractice Damages
In Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits, there is no cap on compensatory damages, which is economic loss such as lost wages, extra costs, replacement, and loss of irreplaceable items. Punitive damages, which are those damages which are meant to punish or make an example out of the defendant for a morally culpable act, are not allowed for Illinois medical malpractice suits.
The law in Illinois has flip-flopped as to whether non-economic damages are allowable. Non-economic damages include "general damages" for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship. In 1995, the Illinois legislature established a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. However, a 1997 Supreme Court of Illinois decision rendered this cap unconstitutional.
Then, in 2005, the Illinois legislature again amended the same section of Illinois' Code as it did in 1995. This was the Illinois Tort Reform Statute, which once again limits non-economic damages to $500,000. However, several trial judges have overruled this statute in their decisions, keeping this issue controversial in Illinois.
Caps for medical malpractice cases have been proposed or enacted in every state since the tort-reform era of the 1970's. Tort law has to do with negligence or carelessness, and in the case of medical malpractice, it concerns a doctor's failure to perform his or her job using a professional standard of care. The goal in capping medical malpractice damages is to curb increasing malpractice insurance rates and the rising cost of health care.
Medical groups support caps since this will tend to lower physicians? insurance rates. However, prominent trial court associations have criticized medical malpractice caps for preventing injured parties from recovering an amount comparable to their actual pain and suffering. For example, in a recent Illinois case, a baby got brain damage and cerebral palsy when the delivering doctor tried to suck it out with a Kiwi vacuum for over an hour, instead of performing an immediate C-section.
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Last Modified: 12-11-2012 03:08 PM PST
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