Periodically clients ask about Maryland's cap on non-economic damages, which really is a limit on how much compensation can be awarded for pain and suffering damages. The "cap" arose in 1986 in response to intensive lobbying by the insurance industry and healthcare providers in 2005. which it was represented to legislators that a "crisis" was taking place in Maryland courts.
The initial limit was $350,000.00 until a federal court decision found the cap inapplicable to death cases. (See United States v Streidel) Suddenly the insurance industry was willing to raise the $350,000.00 limit in exchange for protection in the most severe cases, wrongful death and survival actions.
The legislature came up with a scheme that makes modest yearly increases in the maximum non-economic damages but is more restrictive of damages awarded in medical negligence cases. It seems absurd that doctors and hospitals are treated better than ordinary citizens but of course they wield greater lobbying clout.
As a current example the basic non-economic damages cap for 2018 was $860,000.00. For medical malpractice cases it is a flat $800,000.00. There is no logic to this as a victim of a negligent act that results in paralysis is no more injured if the injury is the product of a bad car crash than negligent medical care. The injury is the same just not the cause.
The actual law is contained in the Md. Annotated Code in the Courts and Judicial proceeding Article at 11-108. Essentially the law makes provision for an increase of $15,000.00 per year.
The U.S. v. Streidel problems resulted in a reworking of the medical negligence damages so wrongful death cases became worth vastly less starting in 2005 and to the present.
The net effect of these limitations is to penalize only those people who are most catastrophically injured as the cap does not come into play at all in more mundane day-to-day cases where jurors make modest awards. It is very odd that the jury. which actually weighs the evidence of how much an injury has impacted the life of a victim or their surviving loved ones, has its verdict reduced to an arbitrarily imposed amount.
The complexities of the issues raised by the cap necessitate consultation with an attorney who has handled serious cases and understands the interplay of the facts and the applicable law.
Call us at Clark and Steinhorn, LLC at (301) 317-1001