Award (And Settlement) Limits in a Medical Malpractice Case

Many states have enacted laws that limit the amount of money an injured patient can receive as an award in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Here's how it works.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

Medical malpractice lawsuits allow you to hold a doctor or other health care provider responsible when negligent medical treatment causes harm. But some states have passed laws that place limitations on the amount of money that can be awarded in a successful medical malpractice lawsuit. In this article, we'll explain how these "caps" work in medical malpractice cases, and we'll provide state-by-state details on the current state of these laws across the U.S.

Medical Malpractice Damages

In a typical medical malpractice lawsuit, a number of different categories of damages are available if the plaintiff is successful in establishing the doctor's liability for harm ("damages" is just another word for compensation for injuries). These types of damages include:

1. Cost of past and future medical treatment costs (economic damages)
2. Reimbursement for lost income/earning potential (economic damages)
3. Pain and suffering (non-economic damages)
4. Punitive damages (usually reserved for cases involving egregious or outrageous conduct)

Tort Reform and Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

As part of tort reform efforts, a number of states have passed laws that limit the amount of damages that are recoverable after a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Most of these damage caps apply to compensation for "non-economic" losses, which includes awards for a medical malpractice plaintiff's pain and suffering, which is meant to cover pain, discomfort, stress, anxiety, scarring, disfigurement, and other negative effects of the plaintiff's injuries and ongoing recovery. For example, in California, plaintiffs who win their medical malpractice case can only recover up to $250,000 in non-economic damages.

State-by-State Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

In the chart below, you'll find the latest state-specific information on laws that place a cap on medical malpractice damages. Click on you state's link for more detail about the award limits, as well as the statute of limitations and other civil injury laws.


Damage Caps

Alabama None
Alaska Non-economic: $250,000. Wrongful death or a disability considered more than 70% disabling: $400,000
Arizona Constitutionally prohibited
Arkansas None
California Non-economic $250,000
Colorado Non-economic: $300,000. Total damages: $1 million
Connecticut None
Delaware None
District of Columbia None
Florida Non-Economic Damages: $500,000 for practitioners; $750,000 for non-practitioners; $1-million for permanent vegetative state or death
Georgia Punitive: $250,000. Non-economic: $350,000 against providers. Additional $350,000 against each health care facility. Total maximum for non-economic: $1,050,000
Hawaii Non-economic: $375,000 with exceptions for specific situations
Idaho Non-economic $250,000, adjusted annually for inflation. Does not apply to wilful/reckless negligence or felonies.
Illinois Struck down in 2010 - Non-economic: $500,000 against providers. $1,000,000 against hospitals
Indiana $1,250,000 total if it occurred after 1999. Providers liable for a maximum of $250,000 with the rest to be paid through state's Patient Compensation Fund.
Iowa None
Kansas Non-economic: $250,000
Kentucky None
Louisiana $500,000 total. Health care providers liable for only $100,000 with the rest paid by compensation fund
Maine Non-economic: $500,000 on wrongful death
Maryland Non-economic: $740,000 as of 2015 to increase $15,000 annually. Applies to all claims and to all defendants from the same injury, or to wrongful death cases with only one plaintiff. If two wrongful death plaintiffs- $125% of current non-economic cap.
Massachusetts Non-economic damages: $500,000 except in catastrophic injuries
Michigan Non-economic: As of 2015 $444,900 or $794,500 for catastrophic/disabling injuries. Adjusts annually for inflation
Minnesota None
Mississippi Non-economic: $500,000/plaintiff
Missouri Non-economic: $350,000; but cap ruled unconstitutional by Missouri Supreme Court in 2012
Montana Non-economic: $250,000
Nebraska $2,250,000 total except maximum of $500,000 for those qualifying entities under the Hospital-Medical Liability Act
Nevada Non-economic: $350,000 except with limited exceptions
New Hampshire None
New Jersey Punitive: The greater of $350,000 or 5x compensatory damages.
New Mexico Total: $600,000 except for past/future medical bills and punitive damages. Maximum provider liability is $200,000 with the rest paid by compensation fund.
New York None
North Carolina Non-economic: $500,000
North Dakota Non-economic: $500,000 however any award above $250,000 may be reviewed by judge
Ohio Non-economic damages: $250,000 or 3x economic damages up to $350,000/plaintiff, whichever is greater. $500,000 total for multiple plaintiffs. In catastrophic cases, $500,000 or $1,000,000
Oklahoma Non-economic $350,000 for OB/ER cases or if there's an offer of judgment
Oregon Non-economic: $500,000 for wrongful death. Other non-economic caps not constitutional
Pennsylvania Punitive: Twice actual damages. Constitutional prohibition on caps of economic damages
Rhode Island None
South Carolina Punitive damages: $350,000 or 3x compensatory damages. Non-economic: $350,000 or facility against each provider adjusted annually for inflation. Total claim with multiple providers capped at $1,050,000
South Dakota Non-economic $500,000
Tennessee None
Texas Non-economic damages: $250,000 physicians or providers. Additional $250,000 against each health care institution
Utah Non-economic $450,000
Vermont None
Virginia Total damages $2,000,000 for acts occurring after July 2008.
Washington None
West Virginia Non-economic $250,000, adjusted for inflation annually with an absolute maximum of $375,000. In catastrophic cases, $500,000 adjusted annually up to a max of $750,000
Wisconsin Non-economic $750,000 for medical negligence. Wrongful death actions: $500,000 for minors and $350,000 for adults
Wyoming Constitutionally prohibited
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