In one sense, medical malpractice is a deeply personal subject, involving a patient’s health and the care they receive from medical professionals. In another sense, it’s a politically and legally charged subject that attracts a great deal of attention of state legislators, lobbyists and judges.
In a recent case, the Alaska Supreme Court threw out some of our state’s limits on medical malpractice awards.
The case involved a woman who says she was injured due to medical malpractice during surgery on her gallbladder. She won in her lawsuit seeking compensation for her damages, but her award was reduced under an Alaska law that limits malpractice awards to plaintiffs who have also received insurance payouts and other benefits related to the injury.
The high court overturned that law. The result could mean patients who have been injured through medical malpractice could potentially receive higher awards in lawsuits. However, it does not necessarily mean that medical professionals or their insurers will have to pay more.
Medical malpractice award caps
Most states and U.S. territories have some type of cap on medical malpractice awards.
Alaska caps noneconomic damages at $250,000. Noneconomic damages include such things as pain and suffering. In cases involving wrongful death or severe disability, that cap is lifted to $400,000. There is no such cap on damages in cases involving intentional injury or injuries caused by reckless conduct.
The state allows punitive damages in some cases, but these are generally capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages. Compensatory damages include economic damages such as medical costs and lost wages.
Legal advice in malpractice cases
If you have been accused of medical malpractice, the legal advice and guidance of a lawyer can make a tremendous difference to the outcome of your case. Lawyers with experience in malpractice defense walk clients through the legal process step by step, educating them about what, while protecting their rights.