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Understanding the Statutory Damage Caps for Medical Malpractice Claims in Georgia

Unfortunately, medical malpractice remains a serious problem. Too many patients are harmed by medical negligence each year. Victims have the right to bring a claim against a negligent doctor, nurse, hospital, or other health provider. Through a medical malpractice claim, you have the right to seek compensation for your damages, including medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. 

This raises a key question: Is there a cap on how much compensation you can recover in a medical malpractice claim? In Georgia, the answer is “no”—with an exception for punitive damages. You are not limited by law when seeking compensation for actual damages. Here, our Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys provide a guide to caps for medical malpractice damages. 

No Cap On Economic Damages in a Medical Malpractice Claim in Georgia

As a starting point, it is important to emphasize that there are no statutory caps on economic damages in medical malpractice claims in Georgia. Economic damages are actual monetary losses. You can take action to recover the full extent of your quantifiable losses. In other words, victims of medical negligence can seek compensation for all their: 

  • Property damage; 
  • Emergency room care; 
  • Hospital bills; 
  • Prescription medications;
  • Medical equipment;  
  • Long-term medical needs;
  • Mental health counseling;  
  • Lost wages; and
  • Loss of earning power. 

No More Cap On Non-Economic Damages in a Medical Malpractice Claim in Georgia

There used to be a statutory cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims in Georgia. In 2005, lawmakers passed a bill that limited how much a medical malpractice victim could recover for their non-economic damages—such as pain and suffering, long-term disability, and loss of quality of life. However, that statute is no longer valid. The Supreme Court of Georgia found the state’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims unconstitutional. 

In the 2010 case of Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery v. Nestlehutt, our state’s highest court invalidated the statutory cap on non-economic damages. The plaintiff (Betty Nestlehutt) was a patient who suffered injuries due to negligently performed cosmetic surgery by the defendant (Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery). The court found liability on the part of the defendant and the jury awarded the plaintiff $900,000 in non-economic damages. However, that amount was more than the then-existing statutory cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases. 

Upon review, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the statutory cap on medical malpractice non-economic damages—which was then $350,000—as unconstitutional. The law was ruled invalid because it violated the right to a jury trial. The decision had major implications for medical malpractice victims. There are no caps on non-economic damages in place. Through a medical malpractice claim in Georgia, you can seek full compensation for non-economic losses, including pain and suffering, long-term disability, and loss of life enjoyment. 

A Cap On Punitive Damages in a Medical Malpractice Claim in Georgia

Punitive damages—often known as: “exemplary damages”—are a type of damages that can be awarded in a civil lawsuit as a form of punishment to the defendant. Punitive damages punish particularly harmful, reckless, or malicious conduct. These damages go beyond compensating the plaintiff and are designed to deter similar future behavior by the defendant or others. Unlike compensatory damages, which aim to make the plaintiff whole, punitive damages are intended to serve as a financial deterrent against gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing.

Punitive damages can be granted in a limited number of medical malpractice claims in Georgia. If a medical provider engaged in gross negligence or intentional harmful conduct, a patient who suffered harm may be entitled to seek punitive damages in addition to the economic and non-economic losses that they suffered. There is a cap for these damages. Under Georgia law (GA Code § 51-12-5.1), punitive damages in medical malpractice cases are limited to $250,000. 

Note: There is an exception to Georgia’s statutory cap on punitive damages for medical malpractice claims. In cases involving intentional harm, the court may set the cap on punitive damages aside and award the victim punitive compensation above $250,000. Malpractice that occurs due to intoxication may be deemed “intentional harm” in Georgia. 

A Lawyer Can Help You Pursue the Maximum Compensation for Medical Malpractice

Victims of medical malpractice deserve justice, accountability, and the greatest possible financial compensation. As Georgia does not cap economic damages or non-economic damages, you have the right to pursue compensation for the full value of your losses. Of course, that does not mean getting compensation will be easy.

Medical malpractice claims are generally defended by large, aggressive insurance companies that are committed to protecting their bottom line. Our Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers go above and beyond to help our clients maximize their insurance settlement or trial verdict. You may be able to recover monetary compensation for: 

  • Emergency medical treatment; 
  • Hospital bills and their medical expenses; 
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitative support; 
  • Loss of wages and loss of earning power; 
  • Pain and suffering & mental distress; 
  • Long-term disability and physical impairment; 
  • Reduced quality of life; and
  • Wrongful death of a family member. 

A Quick Summary on Damage Caps and Medical Malpractice Claims in Georgia

Here is a quick overview of everything you need to medical malpractice claims and statutory damages caps in Georgia: 

  1. There is no cap on economic damages; 
  2. There is no cap on non-economic damages (though there used to be one); and
  3. There is a $250,000 cap on punitive damages (though it can be set aside in limited cases). 

Contact Our Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today

At Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King, PC, our Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers have the professional expertise that you can rely on. Have questions about medical malpractice damages? We can help. Our Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys are devoted to helping medical malpractice victims secure the absolute maximum compensation.

Call us now or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation. With offices in Atlanta and Augusta, we fight for the rights of medical malpractice victims throughout Georgia.