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How Damage Caps Affect Healthcare

Published on May 8, 2018 at 9:57 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Each state has very clear guidelines and laws in place regarding Medical Malpractice cases. Damage Caps in particular bear a great weight in each state. Damage Caps affect not only citizens and patients, but also hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers. A Damage Cap, in relation to Medical Malpractice, is a set amount of money that may be awarded to a patient who has suffered a loss of income, quality of life, pain and suffering and so on. These monetary awards are not the same compensation that covers medical expenses. For example, if a person is a victim of medical malpractice and is unable to work during their recovery time, they may be compensated to make up for the income lost while they were out. This is money outside of the award for actual medical expenses such as additional surgery, therapy and recovery.

New Mexico has a damage cap in place of $600,000. To many, this would seem like a plentiful amount. To others, it is downright unjust. It is a tricky task to place a cap, much less a specific value, on someone’s joy and pain, or loss and damages. Damage caps are in place, truly, so that people are not being awarded absurd amounts of money, or worse, intentionally seeking issues in their healthcare service so that they may reap a hefty reward.

Currently, there is discussion in New Mexico surrounding the set damage cap of $600,000. Getting rid of the cap entirely is on the table. Of course, with such a large decision comes strong opinions. Some healthcare providers are turned off by the idea of no damage cap as there is a low stream of physicians flowing into New Mexico as is. As for active physicians, New Mexico is ranked 31st in the country. The State is ranked even lower for the amount of actively enrolled medical students. One of the incentives for incoming physicians is the firm medical malpractice laws. If the damage cap is removed, New Mexico may find it more difficult to bring in new doctors.

Taking the side of citizens seeking justice, a damage cap is simply inappropriate. To put a limit on the amount of loss someone experiences is unruly. For patients and loved ones who have experienced wrongful death, $600,000 is petty cash. In some government officials’ eyes, damage caps go as far as being unconstitutional. Some also believe that removing the cap will increase insurance rates and health care costs.

Overall, it is hard to determine whether there is a happy medium between the two. Is there a way to appease incoming physicians and healthcare providers as well as citizens of New Mexico? If there is a solution, the State has yet to come to one. In reality, there is no sum, no amount of money or goods that can replace a human life, nor is there an amount that can reduce any pain or suffering that an individual, along with their friends and family, has gone through. The best we can do, as attorneys and as fellow residents of New Mexico, is offer the best guidance and representation as possible. We want nothing more than to uphold the justice sought after by our clients. At Buckingham Barrera Law, family comes first.

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