By: Jeff Powless
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What Is The Cap On Medical Malpractice Claims In Indiana?
If you are seriously injured by medical malpractice in Indiana, the amount you can recover as compensation for your pain, human suffering, medical bills, and other harms is very likely limited by Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act (“the Act”). The vast majority of healthcare providers in Indiana “qualify” themselves for protection under Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, which significantly limits a negligent healthcare provider’s liability for the injuries or even deaths that result from malpractice. The limit under the Act applies no matter how negligent or grossly negligent the malpractice was. The limit under the Act also applies no matter how much a victim incurs in medical bills for treatment related to the malpractice. Below we discuss the details of this cap and how it can affect a claim for malpractice.
The Prevalence of Medical Malpractice
According to Johns Hopkins researchers, more than 250,000 people die each year due to medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is considered the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, with 10% of all deaths now due to medical errors.1
Passage of Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act
Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act dates back to the mid-1970s and was enacted when Indiana had a physician elected as governor of the state. The Indiana Medical Malpractice Act was passed in 1975 under the guise of protecting healthcare providers from lawsuits amid a so-called but unfounded “crisis” of rising malpractice insurance premiums. During that period, healthcare professionals and medical organizations argued that the increasing number of malpractice claims and payouts were driving up insurance costs, which, in turn, would lead to reduced access to healthcare services for patients.
The Act passed and has since had a significant harmful impact on patients’ rights to recover for harms resulting from malpractice. By implementing caps on damages, the Act restricts the amount of compensation that injured patients can receive, regardless of the severity of their injuries, the extent of their suffering, or the amount of medical bills that result from the malpractice.
Moreover, the Act requires that before a medical malpractice lawsuit can proceed to court, the case must first be reviewed by a panel of healthcare professionals. This requirement often leads to prolonged waiting periods for injured patients seeking justice. These delays can have devastating consequences for patients who may urgently require compensation to cover medical expenses, ongoing treatments, and other essential needs. Additionally, the extended waiting time can result in further emotional distress and anxiety for the affected individuals and their families.
Claim Caps Under Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act
The applicable damage caps under the Act depend upon when the claim arose. Generally speaking:
- For claims arising before July 1, 2017, the Act imposed a total cap of $1.25 million on the combined damages for the injured patient, including both economic and non-economic damages.
- For claims occurring after July 1, 2017 and prior to July 1, 2019, the total cap was $1.65 million.
- For claims arising after July 1, 2019, the cap is $1.8 million.
Claims that involve the death of an individual without a spouse or dependent children may be subject to an addition cap on non-economic damages.
Please note that this discussion is not legal advice, and these issues can be very complex and may depend upon the particular circumstances of each case. It is highly advisable to consult a qualified attorney if you suspect you may have a medical malpractice claim.
What Claims Are Covered By Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act?
To qualify for coverage under Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, healthcare providers must meet specific criteria outlined by the Act. Generally, healthcare providers are eligible if they have obtained professional liability insurance or participate in the Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF). To participate in the PCF, providers pay an annual assessment based on the number of patients they treat and the type of medical services they offer. It is important to note that not all healthcare providers in Indiana are required to participate in the PCF, and some may choose to maintain private liability insurance to meet the Act’s coverage requirements. However, the vast majority of healthcare providers (including physicians, hospitals, and nursing homes) meet the Act’s coverage requirements and take advantage of the significant advantages the Act provides in defending malpractice claims.
It Is Critical to Consult A Qualified Attorney Regarding Your Medical Malpractice Claim
It is critical that you consult a qualified attorney when dealing with questions involving Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act due to the complex and ever-evolving nature of medical malpractice law in the state. Seek an experienced attorney who will have an in-depth understanding of the Act’s provisions, including damage caps, review panel requirements, and eligibility criteria for healthcare providers. An experienced Indiana malpractice attorney can help you navigate the legal process, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation for the harms you have sustained. Given the potential complexities and challenges in pursuing a medical malpractice claim under the Act, seeking well qualified legal counsel is essential to maximize your chances of a successful outcome and to obtain the justice and accountability that you rightfully deserve.
Jeff Powless is an attorney and the author of the 2017 book, Abuses and Excuses: How To Hold Bad Nursing Homes Accountable. Abuses and Excuses breaks new ground in helping patients and families hold bad nursing homes accountable, sharing a wealth of insider strategies and insights. It’s an eye-opening account of corporate greed, acts of neglect and abuse, an insidious industry culture of cover-up, and the actual harm that inevitably befalls vulnerable nursing home patients all across the country with shocking frequency.