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Damage Caps Transfer Cost of Birth Injuries to Taxpayers

Illinois birth injuries are perhaps the single costliest type of medical error. It is easy to see why. When a child is injured as a result of unreasonable care being provided at the moment of his birth, he or she is often faced with an injury that will last a lifetime. Considering that the child’s life has just begun, the length and severity of the injury is at a pinnacle.

That is why awards in Chicago birth injury cases are sometimes higher than in other medical malpractice suits. In the most basic sense, damage awards are calculated by considering what the plaintiff’s situation would be like without the unreasonable conduct and comparing that to the situation he is actually in. The cost-difference is part of the overall award if liability is found. A child that has suffered a serious birth injury result in something like cerebral palsy, for example, often will have therapy, caregiving, and medical needs throughout his or her life. Each of those has a tremendous cost.

Those costs do not disappear simply because a law is passed which caps the total amount of money that a medical institution or an insurer has to provide to those who suffer as a result of unreasonable care. Instead, the costs are shifted around. This point was made earlier this week in a story at NM Politics on the damaging effect of civil suit damage caps in New Mexico.

When a birth injury occurs there are essentially four options. First, the medical institution that made the mistake can be required to account for its mistake and provide redress. Helping families receive this redress is what our Illinois birth injury lawyers do in our area. Second, the family can be forced to pay for the consequences of the error. However, in the vast majority of cases, families do not have anywhere near the personal resources to pay for the special care needed over a lifetime-often in the millions of dollars. Third, the public as a whole can pay for the care. This is usually done in the form of Medicaid services. The final option would be not to provide any care at all. Fortunately, our society has collectively agreed that it is unacceptable for those in need of special care actually receive at least life-sustaining care
Of those options, the one that best comports with our general sense of fairness and accountability is to have the ones whose unreasonable conduct led to the costs actually pay them. That is what a regular civil justice system does. However, those principles are altered when damage caps are enacted. That is because those caps are essentially laws that shift accountability-they don’t actually limit costs.

In places where caps are in place the common outcome is to thrust the burden onto both the individual family affected and taxpayers at large. In most case the family first has to spend almost all of their assets in order to help the child. Then, when their personal funds are depleted, they can apply for Medicaid help. Medicaid then begins providing aid-though the aid itself has limits, as certain support services are not necessarily provided.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

It Remains Difficult For Some Victims to Receive Compensation For Their Harm

Respected National Think Tank Criticizes Damage Caps