Leading GOP candidate Rick Santorum is facing some tough questions about an apparent contradiction between his support for caps on medical malpractice compensation totaling $250,000 and his wife suing for $500,000. Karen Santorum sued Dr. David Dolberg of Springfield, VA in 1999 after she visited him in 1996 for an adjustment. She claims the adjustment was done incorrectly and resulted in a herniated disk, surgery, and multiple doctors’ visit. The jury awarded Karen Santorum $350,000 for her medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, however, the final award was reduced to $175,000 by the judge.
Santorum’s stance on caps had already been made public in 1994, but at an interview during the trial he stated that because of the case he may be willing to support a higher award. But since then he’s stuck to the $250,000 amount for non-economic damages. Should Rick Santorum be elected President it is conceivable that this sort of cap would be a major part of his agenda and could be passed as a national limit on damages.
In the case of Karen Santorum, the alleged error resulted in an injured back and she claims she was unable to campaign with her husband for a period of time and was emotionally damaged due to weight gain. But it’s easy to see how other cases can do so much worse damage. These caps unfairly limit the amount of money that a plaintiff deserves should they find themselves the victim of negligent care by a medical professional. Visit our Virginia medical malpractice attorney page.
Many states already limit the different kinds of damages that can be claimed in lawsuits; Virginia in particular has an “aggregate cap” that means a plaintiff can currently only receive $2 million in all damages associated with medical malpractice (the Virginia legislature has authorized a $50,000 increase yearly for 20 years beginning July 1, 2012.)
Do medical doctors tell you everything? Imagine a young man working as a web designer losing his eye sight due to a botched procedure. He’d be unable to continue in his career field as well as having to live the rest of his life without his vision. In Virginia he’d be unable to claim more than $2 million from the physician or insurance provider which may barely cover lost wages, not to mention the medical bills, distress, and other issues that come along with a tragedy of this magnitude.
When Rick Santorum proposes putting a cap on non-economic damages, it’s a giveaway to the doctors and insurance companies. It places a cap on what a person is worth following an injury and gives no leeway to juries to dictate what is and isn’t appropriate. Someone who suffers a personal injury in his twenties loses much more than an individual in his seventies who has the same injury. And if Santorum’s fear is juries awarding unnecessarily large awards, his wife’s own case is proof enough that judges will use their discretion and override their judgment. If you or a loved one has an issue pertaining to medical malpractice in Maryland, visit our Maryland medical malpractice page for information.
Damages resulting from a medical malpractice lawsuit should be determined between the two parties to the lawsuit, the jury, and ultimately the judge. It’s inappropriate and unnecessary for politicians to establish artificial limits on what a victim deserves.