Virginia was one of the first states to implement damage caps, which were enacted through the Medical Malpractice Act of 1976. Passed in response to the medical malpractice crisis of the 1970s, this law capped aggregate damages in the Old Dominion State at $750,000. Virginia is one of only a few states with an aggregate cap on damages. An aggregate cap is different from a noneconomic damage cap in that it applies to all damages (pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of income and punitive). The cap also applies to all defendants collectively, not per defendant. Virginiaâ€™s cap was set atÂ cap was set at $2,050,000 in 2012 and will increase each year by $50,000 through 2031.
In addition to damage caps, the Medical Malpractice Act also instituted a system of medical malpractice review panels that are responsible for assessing the validity of medical malpractice claims. At the request of either party, the case can be directed to a panel that consists of two doctors, two lawyers and a judge who will review the claim and determine if it has merit. The panel is charged with determining whether the evidence supports the conclusion that the physician failed to comply with the standard of care and whether that failure caused the injury. The findings of the panel are non-binding, but any opinion of the medical review panel is admissible as evidence in a subsequent action.
Finally, in 1986, Virginia established its Birth-Related Neurological Injury Fund, which compensates infants who suffer permanent, disabling damage to the brain or spine caused by oxygen deprivation or injury during labor, delivery or resuscitation. The birth injury program was intended to remove delivery-room lawsuits from the court system and provide for an alternative way of compensating the plaintiff because these cases have a higher rate of success and tend to result in large monetary awards. The program restructured the way injured infants are compensated for their injuries by eliminating the lump sum awards common in malpractice awards; instead, providing payment on a reimbursement basis.