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How Do the Collateral Source Rule and Damage Caps Work in Virginia Malpractice Lawsuits?


In most states, a judgment in a medical malpractice lawsuit takes into account what existing resources the plaintiff may draw on to pay for healthcare, special accommodations and to replace lost income. In those states, collateral sources such as insurance, workers’ compensation, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security payments are deducted from the judgment. For the patient who is injured by a medical mistake, the total costs can add up to millions of dollars over a lifetime.

In Virginia, however, the collateral source rule says that those other payments are of no consequence. The defendant in a medical practice or other type of personal injury lawsuit can be made to cover the full amount of damages suffered by the plaintiff.

Another Virginia rule with regard to medical liability is that damages are capped at $2 million. That may cover the majority of cases, but not necessarily all. Some injuries can result in a million dollars in cost per year. Punitive damages – payments that a defendant would have to make in egregious cases – are capped at $350,000.

But according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, estimated lifetime costs due to a spinal cord injury for a 25-year-old can be more than $3 million. The average yearly expenses range from $228,566 to $775,567 in the first year following an injury. Spinal cord injuries generally result from accidental trauma, but can also be caused by a medical mistake.

So does this cover all such expenses in a Virginia medical malpractice case? Every case is different, of course, as are their outcomes. For anyone suffering a debilitating injury due to medical malpractice, it makes sense to begin working with a qualified attorney as soon as possible.

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