Since the beginning the Virginia Medical Malpractice Act has limited damages available to victims of medical negligence.
From 1976 to 1983 the Medical Malpractice Act limited damages to $750,000.00. The Virginia General Assembly increased the cap to $1 million in 1983, where it stayed until 1999. That year the cap was raised to $1.5 million.
The cap has increased over time. Section 8.01-581.15 of the Code of Virginia, entitled Limitation on recovery in certain medical malpractice actions, sets forth the medical malpractice cap on damages. It states: “In any verdict returned against a health care provider in an action for malpractice where the act or acts of malpractice occurred on or after August 1, 1999, which is tried by a jury or in any judgment entered against a health care provider in such action which is tried without a jury, the total amount recoverable for any injury to, or death of, a patient shall not exceed the following, corresponding amount:
- July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015: $2,150,000.00
- July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016: $2,200,000.00
- July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017: $2,225,000.00
- July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018: $2,300,000.00
- July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019: $2,350,000.00
- July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020: $2,400,000.00
The cap continues to increase each year until June 30, 2031, when it reaches $2,950,000.00. Any recovery for an act of medical malpractice on or after July 1, 2031 is limited to $3 million.
Does the medical malpractice cap apply to prejudgement interest?
Yes. Prejudgement interest is subject to the medical malpractice cap on damages in Virginia. Pullman v. Coastal Emergency Servs., Inc., 257 Va. 1 (1999).
Does the medical malpractice cap on damages apply to punitive damages?
In Virginia punitive damages are limited to $350,000.00 in any case. Though a jury may award more than this in any personal injury case, the judge must reduce the award to the statutory cap.
Does the medical malpractice cap apply when there is more than one defendant?
When a patient is the victim of medical negligence, he or she may file suit against several defendants. For example a malpractice claim based on a surgical error may name the surgeon, operating room nurses, anesthesiologist, and hospital as defendants.
Unfortunately a plaintiff cannot stack the caps of defendants. See Bulala v. Boyd, 239 Va. 218 (1990). For example if you sue three health care providers (the surgeon and two operating room nurses) you cannot recover the maximum amount allowable from each health care provider. The medical malpractice cap applies to the cause of action, not to each defendant.
There are some situations where multiple plaintiffs can each recover the maximum amount allowable under the damages cap for the same event. For example in a medical negligence claim involving the birth of a child both the mother and the child may have separate causes of action.
Is there a way around the Virginia medical malpractice cap on damages?
Numerous plaintiffs have attacked the medical malpractice cap and argued that it is unconstitutional. The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the cap on multiple occasions.
Though receiving a multi-million dollar judgment may seem like a lot of money, it isn’t in medical malpractice cases. Many victims not only have lifelong restrictions because of the health care provider’s negligence, but also face a lifetime of additional medical care because of complications of the botched medical treatment. This medical care is expensive.
Have a question about your claim? Contact Corey Pollard, one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in Newport News and Richmond, Virginia, for a free consultation. We’re here to help you and your family during this difficult time.