In Illinois, medical malpractice lawsuits have no cap on compensatory damages, which is economic loss such as lost wages, extra costs, replacement, and loss of irreplaceable items. However, punitive damages are not rewarded for Illinois medical malpractice suits. Punitive damages are damages that are used as a punishment or used to make an example out of the defendant for a morally culpable act.
Illinois has flip-flopped as to whether non-economic damages are allowable in medical malpractice cases. Non-economic damages include "general damages" for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship and consortium. In 1995, the Illinois legislature set a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages. But in 1997, a Supreme Court of Illinois decision rendered this cap unconstitutional.
Then, in 2005, the Illinois legislature again amended the statute as it did in 1995 to allow a non-economic damages cap of $500,000. Yet several trial judges have overruled this statute in their decisions, keeping this issue controversial in Illinois.
History of the Cap
Caps for medical malpractice cases have been proposed or enacted in every state since the tort-reform era of the 1970s. 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 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.
Consulting an Attorney
Although the law for non-economic damages in Illinois is uncertain, a personal injury lawyer can help you access your case and obtain the appropriate damages. He can also advise you on your best legal approach and represent you on your medical malpractice matter.