Is the amount of money you can recover in a medical malpractice case capped by law? Some states have medical malpractice caps, some states have no malpractice caps, and others did have a malpractice cap that was overturned by the statute legislature as unconstitutional.
Twenty-nine states currently have tort reform that places a cap on malpractice damages that have so far survived constitutional challenges.
Some of these medical malpractice "tort reform" states have malpractice limits on pain and suffering. Others, like Virginia, have a hard cap that cannot be exceeded.
Here are the states with a malpractice cap:
- New Mexico**
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The states without an asterisk have caps limiting payouts on pain and suffering noneconomic damages. The states with one asterisk have caps both on pain and suffering and an absolute cap on malpractice awards and states with two asterisks have just a hard cap, although the cap for future medical care does not apply in some of these states.
- Average compensation payouts in medical malpractice lawsuits based on the type of claim
Here are the malpractice caps on damages in all 50 states and the District of Columbia:
|Alabama||Cap found unconstitutional (was $400,000 cap, declared unconstitutional in Moore v. Mobile Infirmary Ass'n, 1991)|
|Alaska||$400,000 noneconomic damages including wrongful death or a disability considered more than 70% disabling; otherwise, cap is $250,000; for non-malpractice damages may not exceed||Alaska Statutes 09.55.549|
|Arizona||Constitutional provision prohibiting caps|
|Arkansas||Constitutional provision prohibiting caps ($500,000 cap put on the 2018 ballot)|
|California||$250,000||California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 340.4 and 340.5|
|Colorado||$300,000 noneconomic damages $1,000,000 total damages||Colorado Revised Statutes 13-80-102.5|
|Florida||Cap found unconstitutional (was $500,000 or $1,000,000 for catastrophic injuries enacted in 2003, overturned in North Broward Hospital District v Kalitan, 2017)||Florida Statutes XLV.766.118|
|Georgia||Cap found unconstitutional (was $350,000 per defendant, $1,050,000 max per claim, ruled unconstitutional in Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, P.C. v. Nestlehutt, 2010)||2005 SB3 - Ga. Code Ann. § 51-1-29.5|
|Hawaii||$375,000 with limited exceptions for cases involving multiple defendants||Hawaii Revised Statutes 663-8.7 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 607-15.5 (1996)|
|Idaho||$250,000, adjusted annually for inflation, $357,210.62 in 2018||Idaho Code section 6-1603|
|Illinois||Cap found unconstitutional (was $500,000 per doctor/healthcare provider, and $1,000,000 per hospital or other healthcare facility, overturned in LeBron vs. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, 2010)|
|Indiana||$1,250,000 total damages after 1999 Providers liable for $250,000||Indiana Code section 34-18-14-3|
|Iowa||$250,000 except in cases of substantial or permanent loss or impairment of bodily functions, substantial disfigurement, or wrongful death|
|Kansas||$250,000 cap for causes of action accruing from July 1, 1988 to July 1, 2014; $300,000 cap for causes of action accruing from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2018; $325,000 cap for causes of action accruing from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2022; $350,000 cap for causes of action accruing on or after July 1, 2022||2014 SB311 K.S.A. § 60-19a02(1)|
|Kentucky||Constitutional provision prohibiting caps|
|Louisiana||$500,000 total damages, plus the cost of future medical expenses Providers liable for $100,000|
|Maine||$500,000 cap on wrongful death only||Maine Revised Statutes Title 18A Section 2-804|
|Maryland||Starting in 2005 for malpractice claims: $650,000 increasing by $15,000 each year beginning in 2009, 125% for wrongful death claims|
|Massachusetts||$500,000 unless there is a "substantial or permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function or substantial disfigurement or other special circumstances that would warrant a finding that imposition of such limitation would deprive plaintiff of just compensation for injuries"|
|Michigan||$454,410 as of 2018, or $811,410 for catastrophic/disabling injuries as of 2018, adjusts annually for inflation|
|Mississippi||$500,000||Mississippi Code section 11-1-60|
|Missouri||$420,749 increased to $736,310 for cases of catastrophic personal injury or wrongful death (found constitutional in 2021 in Velazquez v. University Physician Associates)||Missouri Revised Statutes section 538.210.1|
|Montana||$250,000||Montana Code Annotated section 25-9-411|
|Nebraska||$1,250,000 for malpractice occurring between 1993 and 2003, $1,750,000 for malpractice occurring between 2004 and 2014, $2,250,000 for malpractice occurring after 2014||Nebraska Revised Statutes section 44-2825|
|Nevada||$350,000 from each defendant||Nevada Revised Statutes section 41A.035|
|New Hampshire||Cap found unconstitutional (Court struck down a bill to impose a $875,000 cap on all personal injury non-economic damages)|
|New Jersey||None (only punitive damages capped)|
|New Mexico||$600,000 cap on all damages except for past/future medical bills $200,000 maximum provider liability (affirmed by Siebert v. Okun in 2021)|
|North Carolina||$545,144 as of 2018 $500,000 set in 2011, adjusted for inflation starting in 2014||North Carolina General Statutes section 90-21.19|
|North Dakota||Cap was found unconstitutional ($500,000 cap overturned in 2018).... but, unfortunately, reinstated in 2019. (Equal protection argument rejected by the North Dakota Supreme Court in Condon v. St. Alexius.) You can find the statute here.|
|Ohio||$250,000 or three times the plaintiff's economic damages with an overall maximum of $350,000 per plaintiff or $500,000 for each case if there is more than one plaintiff Constitutional provision prohibiting caps on wrongful death claims||Ohio Revised Code section 2323.43|
|Oklahoma||$350,000 unless the court determines that there's "clear and convincing" evidence that the defendant behaved with gross negligence, recklessly disregarded the rights of the patient, had fraudulent intent, or acted with malice or intent to harm the plaintiff. [2019 Update: Overturned. See below.]||Oklahoma Statutes section 23-61.2|
|Oregon||Cap found unconstitutional ($500,000 cap eliminated in Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg, 2017; Busch v. McInnis Waste, 2020)|
|Pennsylvania||Constitutional provision prohibiting caps|
|South Carolina||$1,050,000 $350,000 against each provider, adjusted annually for inflation||South Carolina Code of Laws Title 15, Chapter 32|
|South Dakota||$500,000||South Dakota Code of Laws Section 21-3-11|
|Tennessee||$750,000 for non-catastrophic cases, $1,000,000 for catastrophic injuries including those to the spinal cord resulting in paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation of hands/feet, and extensive burns|
|Texas||$250,000 against each health care facility, not exceeding $500,000 $250,000 against multiple individual health care providers||2003 HB4 Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 74.301|
|Utah||$450,000 Constitutional provision prohibiting caps on wrongful death claims||Utah Code section 78B-3-410|
|Virginia||$2,300,000 total damages until July 2018, set to rise $50,000 each year until it tops out at $3,000,000 in 2031||Virginia Code section 8.01.581.15|
|Washington||Cap found unconstitutional (Sofie v. Fireboard Corp, 1989)|
|West Virginia||$250,000 $500,000 in catastrophic cases, including wrongful death, permanent and serious disfigurement, or an injury that permanently prevents the plaintiff from being able to care for him/herself and perform life-sustaining activities - but there are exceptions in statutes that you have to dig through||West Virginia Code section 55-7B-8|
|Wisconsin||Cap found unconstitutional ($750,000 cap overturned in Mayo v. Wisconsin Injured Patients & Families Compensation Fund, 2017 but reinstated in 2018 by Wisconsin Supreme Court)||Wisconsin Statutes section 893.55|
|Wyoming||Constitutional provision prohibiting caps|
As of October 2021, there are nine states where malpractice caps have been ruled unconstitutional. Kansas and Oklahoma joined the club in 2019; Oregon in 2020).
- Alabama: Moore v. Mobile Infirmary, a 1991 case involving a burn injury in which the court found that a $400,000 economic damage cap in medical negligence claims violates the equal protection guarantee afforded under the Florida Constitution.
- Florida: McCall v. United States, a 2014 case involving the tragic death of a 20-year-old honors student during childbirth in which the court found that that statutory damage cap violates equal protection because the statute less favorably impacts circumstances when there are multiple claimants/survivors differently than when there is only a single claimant/survivor.
- Georgia: Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery v. Nestlehutt, a 2010 case in which the Georgia high court found that a noneconomic damages cap unconstitutionally infringed upon the right to a jury trial. The court wisely reasoned the constitutional right to a jury includes the right to a jury trial for claims involving the negligence of a health care provider, with an attendant right to an award of the full measure of damages as determined by the jury. By reducing damages awarded by a jury with a medical malpractice cap, the court wisely reasoned, the jury’s basic function is undermined.
- Kansas: Hilburn v. Enerpipe LTD, in this 2019 truck accident case, the Kansas Supreme Court found that Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-19a02 violates victims' rights under section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights because it intrudes upon the jury's ability to determine the amount of compensation required as appropriate compensation for pain and suffering damages. (Worth noting: doctors' groups disagree that Hilburn eliminated malpractice caps in Kansas.)
- Illinois: Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, a 2010 birth injury case in which the Illinois Supreme Court finds the state damage cap is unconstitutional on separation-of-power grounds. The court reasoned that it is the judiciary’s function to reduce verdicts. The court rejected the claim that the damage cap limiting payouts was a valid exercise of the legislature’s police powers.
- New Hampshire: Brannigan v. Usitalo, a 1991 New Hampshire Supreme Court case that found that the state damage cap violates the equal protection guarantees of the state constitution by imposing the burdens of supporting the medical care industry solely upon those persons who are most severely injured and in the greatest need of compensation.
- Oklahoma: Beason v. I.E. Miller Services, Inc., a 2019 case that overturned Oklahoma's cap, citing the Equal Protection Clause.
- Oregon: Busch v. McInnis, a 2020 Supreme Court case, the court found the cap on damages in Oregon (not malpractice specifically) violated the state constitution’s remedy clause.
- Washington: Sophie v. Fibreboard was the first case in which a court overruled a malpractice damages cap on constitutionality. The Washington Supreme Court found that the state damage cap violates the right to a trial by jury. By applying a cap on malpractice awards, the jury’s role to determine damages is violated.
Some states also have caps on punitive damages. Our malpractice lawyers rarely have a case where punitive damages would apply (although we do handle sexual assault claims against doctors and other healthcare providers).
We handle and medical malpractice (usually birth injury) cases in other jurisdictions. This document is a cheat sheet we created for ourselves for figuring out whether a potential new case is limited by pain and suffering or hard damage caps.
We just put this online because there are not a lot of good, updated summaries of the medical malpractice caps by state. We give you the chance to check our work by reading the relevant statute. We have updated this page in 2021. (Which also uncovered a U.S. Virgin Islands opinion in June 2019 finding the cap unconstitutional.)
Read the Medical Malpractice Cap Statutes for Yourself
Still, don't trust us. You should double-check all of these and dig to make sure our malpractice caps are current. Some states are intricate. West Virginia is a good example. In our last wrongful death case there involving the death of a young doctor during childbirth, our malpractice lawyers found the law is complex and requires some digging into other statutes that might be relevant to your case.
Caps on Attorneys' Fees in Medical Malpractice Claims
Frankly, the next summary we have to do is on states like New York and California that limit attorneys' fees in medical malpractice cases. [Update: We did this.]There are so many birth injury cases that never see the light of day because of these awful caps on attorneys' fees. How do you convince a lawyer to risk over $200,000 in expenses to fund a case when she only gets 15% of the recovery over $600,000? You don't. The result is that many brain-injured children never get a chance at justice.