Since 1976, the Commonwealth of Virginia has put a cap on Medical Malpractice awards. Originally that cap was set at $750,000, but the General Assembly in Richmond has raised it from time to time over the years. In 1999 the limit was set at $1.5 million dollars, then it was increased to $2 million by 2008 where it remained until 2012.
In 2012, an agreement brokered by the Medical Society of Virginia and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association set a $50,000 per year increase on the cap until 2031, when it will reach $3 million. This means that the cap on any medical malpractice award currently depends on when the act of malpractice occurred. In the first half of 2015 that cap is $2.15 million, and that will increase to $2.2 million on July 1. A list of how the law currently ties award caps to date of injury can be found in the Virginia Code section 8.01-581.15.
Virginia is one of the only states to limit economic damages (medical bills, lost income, diminished earning capacity) and non-economic damages (compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.) in medical malpractice cases. The Trial Lawyers Association has argued against caps for many years, saying that juries should have the power to set award amounts based on the particulars of the medical injury and its potential future costs to the victim. The counter argument from Virginia’s medical society has been that caps are important for keeping malpractice insurance in check and for making the state attractive to physicians.
Not surprisingly we feel the evide is on the side of the Trial Lawyers’ position. Our neighboring state North Carolina has nearly identical demographics to those of Virginia and has the very same companies writing medical malpractice coverage for its doctors. The premiums are nearly identical for both states and North Carolina has no caps. The insurance carrier’s actuaries have testified that they do not use million dollar verdicts in rate setting, because they are so rare that they are statistically insignificant.
Burnett & Williams has in-depth experience with dozens of medical malpractice cases, including wrongful death cases. If you have a question about a possible medical malpractice claim, or if you’d like to learn more about our case record, give us a call at 800-969-1650.