With only five weeks left in the session, a new bill has been introduced which would allow greater recovery for victims of medical malpractice in Colorado. Under current law, a person suing for malpractice can recover only $300,000 in noneconomic damages. Non-economic damages include “pain and suffering” and disfigurement or physical impairment. All damages in medical malpractice cases, including actual medical costs, are capped at $1 million, though a judge can approve a higher award. The proposed bill would raise the level of the cap on noneconomic damages and provide for an annual inflationary increase.
The hard cap on noneconomic damages was set at $250,000 in 1988 and then adjusted to $300,000 in 2003. Advocates for victims say the cap should be raised to reflect inflation.
Last year, a similar bill will not be carried by Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, who is also an attorney and who became speaker of the House this year. Carroll and Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, co-sponsored a bill last year to allow injured patients to receive nearly 60 percent more in medical malpractice lawsuits. Backed by the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, the bill died in the House Judiciary Committee, which was headed by Carroll, because of insufficient support from Democrats.
Officials with Gov. Bill Ritter’s office said the Democratic governor generally supports the concept of raising the medical malpractice caps for inflation but so far this year has not taken a position on any specific proposals.
In a four-column paid advertisement that ran yesterday in The Denver Post, the Colorado Medical Society – which represents 6,770 physicians – blasted the pending legislation as bad for health care and only good for lawyers. This of course ignores the victims of medical malpractice, and disregards all recent studies which demonstrate that litigation contributes very little to over-all health care costs, see Study Exposes Medical Care Crisis Fairy Tale.