Will Missouri lawmakers revive medical malpractice damages cap in 2014?

When you are injured through someone else's negligence, you have a legal right to seek compensation from the at fault party. It is only fair that those who have harmed others through their carelessness should have to make victims as whole as possible by providing monetary compensation. But, in 2014 some Missouri lawmakers will be seeking to limit the amount injured parties can recover in a medical malpractice action.

Bill would circumvent Missouri's common law right to sue for medical malpractice

The idea of medical malpractice damage caps is not new in Missouri. In fact, the state already tried a medical malpractice damage cap once. The former cap, passed in 2005, limited noneconomic damages - like those for pain and suffering - to $350,000 in medical malpractice cases.

However, the Missouri Supreme Court invalidated the damages cap in the summer of 2012. The Court reasoned that the cause of action allowing plaintiffs to seek monetary damages for medical malpractice arose from a common law right predating the state's 1820 constitution. Therefore, the medical malpractice damages cap infringed upon that common law right and had to be struck down.

In 2014, some Missouri lawmakers will try to rekindle the state's limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. House Bill 1173, filed in mid December by State Representative Eric Burlison, would reinstate the damages cap by abolishing the common law right to sue for medical malpractice and making medical malpractice suits instead subject to statutory law.

Supporters of the bill say that it would reduce the cost of malpractice insurance for health care providers, and those cost savings would ultimately be passed on to patients. Critics, however, worry that it could leave victims of medical malpractice without the full and fair compensation they deserve.

A similar bill in the Missouri Senate ground to a halt earlier in 2013. Some other nearby states do have limits on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice lawsuits, including Kansas, whose Supreme Court upheld its $250,000 limit in 2012.

If passed, House Bill 1173 would resurrect Missouri's $350,000 limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Economic damages, such as those for medical bills and lost wages, would not be impacted by the cap.

Call a Missouri attorney if you have been harmed by medical malpractice

If you have been injured by medical malpractice, or if you have lost a family member because of a health care provider's mistake, it is always a good idea to seek out legal help as soon as possible. But, this bill makes it even more important to get in touch with a medical malpractice attorney quickly so that you can get your case underway before any potential limit on monetary damages goes into effect. Contact a Missouri attorney today to discuss your legal options for addressing medical malpractice.