People who suffer catastrophic injuries or serious injuries due to medical malpractice often have substantial costs associated with their care. Just a brief stay in a hospital can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. Full compensation for any type of medical error includes payments for the following:
- Doctors’ bills and the costs of staying in the hospital
- Costs associated with medication in the hospital and at home
- Expenses for numerous visits with physical, occupational, and other therapists
- Fees for any psychiatric care including time spent with psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health counselors
- Charges for any medical devices including prosthetics, wheelchairs, canes, and implants
- Charges for any adaptive technologies a person’s home might need, like wheelchair ramps
- Lost income due to the inability to work – sometimes for months, years, or the remainder of a patient’s life
In addition, patients can be compensated for the daily physical pain and emotional suffering which can be excruciating and completely alter the patient’s quality of life.
All of these costs – economic or non-economic – are called “damages.” When you can only claim a set amount of money for damages, that is call a “damage cap.” Different states have different types of damage caps. Some states limit the amount of non-economic damages, like Tennessee does. Other states have a complete cap on all economic and non-economic damages. Some states do not cap any kinds of damages.
Some caps depend on the type of injury. Most states adjust awards based on inflation – the cap changes yearly depending on the inflation level. Most states do lift the caps if the medical provider such as a hospital or physician was “grossly” negligent.
How Tennessee’s medical liability cap works
In Tennessee, there is a $750,000 cap for non-economic damages (damages other than medical bills, wage loss, and other quantifiable damages) for all types of injuries due to any action including health care liability. The $750,000 cap applies if the injuries were due to one single act or due to a series of errors. The cap also applies to derivative actions such as a claim by a spouse of the injured victim for loss of consortium.
Tennessee increases the cap to $1 million for certain types of catastrophic injuries:
- The victim develops quadriplegia or paraplegia due to a spinal cord damage
- Two hands, two feet, or one of each are amputated
- The victims suffer 3rd degree burns that cover the face or 40% of the body
- The “wrongful death of a parent with a minor child(ren)”
The cap does not apply if the defendant had a specific intent to cause the serious physical injury, or the defendant tried to evade liability by falsifying, altering, or concealing material evidence. The cap is also lifted if the defendant was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other stimulants/intoxicants that resulted in death or injury. In cases like these, the injury victim may also be entitled to punitive damages.
Hospitals, physicians, nurses, technicians, and other health providers are required to provide competent and quality care to their patients. At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, our medical malpractice lawyers hold individuals and companies accountable for changing lives and causing the death of a loved one. We fight for injured patients and families who live in or near Memphis, Jackson, and West Tennessee. Call us now at 901-475-7434 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.