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Why are Kansas Doctors Advocating for Higher Award Caps?

The state of Kansas may soon see medical malpractice award caps increased from $250,000 to $350,000, according to an article by Medscape Business of Medicine. In April, the Kansas legislature voted in favor of a bill to raise the 25-year-old limits on pain and suffering malpractice awards. This move reportedly came as a surprise to many interested parties and legislative observers.

Moves by the legislature to increase award caps are commonly done in response to court determinations that the caps are unconstitutional, but Kansas lawmakers are not facing this problem. In Kansas, the court ruled in the exact opposite direction. The State Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the current $250,000 limits are constitutional, giving legislatures a strong footing to maintain the caps. In the neighboring state of Missouri, the court overturned medical malpractice caps all together, ruling they were unconstitutional.

The other strange twist to this proposed legislation is the overwhelming support it reportedly received from medical doctors. According to Medscape, the Medical Society of Sedgwick County “identified passing legislation to increase the cap as one of its four most pressing issues of 2014.” Doctors from Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, are included in that organization.

Observers and interested parties are asking why these doctors, along with politicians, are so eager to raise medical malpractice caps. As reported by Medscape, experts assert that is a tactical measure of giving a little leeway in order to avoid losing the whole fight. At one end of the spectrum are anti-cap supporters, who argue against any medical malpractice award limits. At the other end of the spectrum are pro-cap supports, who feel that malpractice award limits are essential to adequate health care. These Kansas doctors are reportedly taking the middle ground between the two stances in hopes of preventing a complete ban on all malpractice caps, which is what occurred in the state of Missouri. According to reports, the Kansas legislation is currently awaiting a decision from the governor.

Medical Malpractice Caps in Illinois

In the state of Illinois, there are no medical malpractice caps on compensatory damages, which are awards to cover substantiated economic losses. Punitive awards, which are meant to punish the offending party, are not allowed in Illinois medical malpractice cases. However, non-economic damages, which include those for pain and suffering, are allowed in Illinois malpractice cases.

In 2005, the state implemented non-economic damage limits of $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals. The Illinois Court struck down this legislative attempt at creating caps in 2010, finding that the limits were unconstitutional. However, this judicial determination has not quashed the heated debate that continues to rage in Illinois over the controversial issue. While physicians continue to advocate for caps, trial attorneys continue to fight on behalf of plaintiffs, against award limits that adequately compensate parties injured from medical malpractice.

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