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Does West Virginia law limit medical malpractice damages?

Like many other states, West Virginia restricts the damages injured parties can collect in liability claims against health care providers. West Virginia Code 55-7B:8 places a $250,000 to $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims, depending upon the harm done to a patient. Potential plaintiffs must know the difference between economic and non-economic damages to understand what compensation is possible.

Laws in our state do not limit economic damages in medical negligence claims. Economic damages are connected to financial losses suffered by a patient or in wrongful death claims, a victim's family members. An injured patient often claims losses due to medical bills incurred as the result of physician or hospital negligence and wage losses due to a victim's inability to work.

Non-economic damages have abstract qualities that are difficult to define in specific financial terms. Emotional distress and pain and suffering are examples of damages in this category. It should be noted the West Virginia medical malpractice cap on non-economic damages applies per occurrence of harm.

The $500,000 cap for West Virginia non-economic damages concerns cases of wrongful death. The higher cap also covers medical mistakes that cause permanent damage, like irreparable disfigurement or incapacitation preventing the victim from leading an independent life.

Medical errors may be the result of carelessness on the part of any medical professional. A doctor's employer and operators and owners of health care facilities also may be liable for a physician's mistake. Employers can be faulted for failing to monitor and train doctors properly.

For a plaintiff to succeed in a claim against a doctor, evidence must show the physician did not behave in a way consistent with accepted medical standards. This may include careless behavior like a wrong-site surgery or a lack of action, like a delayed diagnosis. Medical malpractice attorneys assess claims and clarify the complex rules applicable to the legal process.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Medical Malpractice In-Depth" Nov. 22, 2014

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