What to Expect from Medical Malpractice Damage Caps in Georgia

Medical malpractice lawsuits are filed when a medical professional's negligent behavior leads to physical, emotional and/or financial harm to a patient. This occurs when a doctor fails to diagnose a life-threatening illness that a more competent doctor would have identified or when a medical practitioner fails to notify a patient of risks or to deliver competent, timely treatment for a diagnosed condition.

What are the requirements for a claim, and when to file

The most successful malpractice lawsuits are filed soon after the negligent occurrence and provide clear evidence that all claim requirements are met, including:

  • A clear doctor-patient relationship
  • Negligent behavior on behalf of the doctor
  • Injury that resulted directly from the negligent behavior
  • Damages that resulted directly from the injury

If you have the evidence needed to prove all of these requirements to the satisfaction of a court of law, then you may successfully win your case against one or more doctors and/or medical facilities.

Why are there caps to how much you can "win" in a lawsuit?

You may have medical bills that you need to pay, and the emotional damages of a malpractice experience may leave you exhausted, but there is a lot to learn about filing a malpractice claim. It all starts with understanding the caps that are in place to limit the damages that you can collect from this type of case in Georgia.

The caps enforced by the state of Georgia apply only to "non-economic" damages, so you don't have to worry that your medical bills or other economic expenses won't get covered. The cap applies to damages that don't correspond to a set dollar amount, including the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Anxiety
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Lost companionship
  • Disfigurement
  • Scarring

Who decides what intangible damages are worth in a lawsuit?

Since there are no medical bills to prove what these damages are worth, it's up to a judge to determine the dollar value of such claims. Georgia follows many other states by capping the financial compensation that plaintiffs may receive for these non-economic damages. Understanding the limitations and guidelines will tell you what to expect if your medical malpractice lawsuit is successful.

The Cap System in Georgia

If you get confused by the cap limits on medical malpractice lawsuits in Georgia, you're not alone. It's common for malpractice victims to get confused when it comes to the classification of damages, which is why it's in your best interest to seek the guidance of an experienced malpractice attorney as soon as possible. You will need to collect evidence proving your damages, and you may need to recruit experts to prove the extent of your damages. A lawyer can also help you determine which damages are considered general, special or punitive so that you maximize your financial rewards if your case is successful in court.

Caps for each case against a health care provider, too

Not only is there a maximum amount that you can collect for all non-economic damages in a single medical malpractice lawsuit, but there are caps in place for each claim against a specified healthcare provider. Here is a breakdown that may help you understand each cap in place at this time:

  • Each claim against a named healthcare provider: $350,000 cap
  • Each claim against a named healthcare facility: $350,000 cap
  • Each claim against multiple healthcare facilities: $700,000 cap
  • Overall cap for any single medical malpractice case: $1.05 million

Some medical malpractice cases involve only one doctor or healthcare facility, so the cap is simply $350,000. For a more complicated case that involves multiple healthcare facilities or doctors, you may have multiple claims that each accrue a cap. In that case, your overall claim is capped to the $1.05 million maximum.

The Debate on Capped Damages

While Georgia and many other states continue to enforce caps for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, there is a lot of controversy over these limitations. The Georgia Supreme Court declared these caps unconstitutional in 2010, and there has been a lot of debate amongst professionals for cases filed in later years. This complicates the enforcement of the caps even more, making it critical that you work openly with your lawyer. Their experience and industry expertise will ensure that your case is filed correctly and maximizes your rewards.

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