Estimating the Effect of Damages Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases: Evidence from Texas
56 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2009 Last revised: 24 Dec 2009
Date Written: February 26, 2009
Using claim-level data, we estimate the effect of Texas's 2003 cap on non-economic damages on jury verdicts, post-verdict payouts, and settlements in medical malpractice cases closed during 1988-2004. For pro-plaintiff jury verdicts, the cap affects 47 percent of verdicts, and reduces mean allowed non-economic damages, mean allowed verdict, and mean total payout by 73 percent, 38 percent, and 27 percent, respectively. In total, the non-econ cap reduces adjusted verdicts by $156M, but predicted payouts by only $60M. The impact on payouts is smaller because a substantial portion of the above-cap damage awards were not being paid to begin with. In cases settled without trial, the non-econ cap affects 18 percent of cases and reduces predicted mean total payout) by 18 percent. The non-econ cap has a smaller impact on settled cases than tried cases because settled cases tend to involve smaller payouts. The impact of the non-econ cap varies across plaintiff categories. Deceased, unemployed, and (likely) elderly plaintiffs suffer a larger percentage reduction in payouts than living, employed, and non-elderly plaintiffs. We also simulate the effects of different caps, and find substantial differences in cap stringency across states. Different caps reduce aggregate payouts in tried cases (all cases) by between 16 percent and 65 percent (7 percent and 42 percent). Caps on total damages have especially large effects.
Keywords: damages caps, medical malpractice, texas, settlements
JEL Classification: K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation