Senate Defeats Bill to Remove Pain and Suffering Damage Cap by 1 Vote

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Jun 21, 2019 in Legal News

definition of legislationOn June 4th, the Oregon Senate voted against a bill that would have eliminated the state’s $500,000 cap on compensation for pain and suffering damages suffered by personal injury victims. Backers of the bill do not have much hope it will be revived before the 2019 legislative session concludes at the end of June.

The bill passed the Oregon House 36-22 back in March and was designed to remove the cap that was set by an Oregon Supreme Court ruling back in 2016. The cap first took effect all the way back in 1987, when it was put in place by the legislature. It increased over time due to inflation.

Attempts at a Compromise

Even though the bill did not survive, several senators made floor speeches saying they were not against the idea of raising the non-economic damages cap that limits the amount of money companies and individuals can be forced to pay to injury victims, those who are sexually assaulted, those who get hurt at work and victims of medical malpractice.

The political director of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association said it would have been very difficult to reach a compromise between eliminating the cap and raising it. That is why a majority of senators decided to kill the bill.

The faction of senators who wanted the cap completely eliminated voted down a proposal by Senator Kim Thatcher to raise the cap to $1.5 million and increase it each year. She referred to her proposal as a “good faith counteroffer.”

Why Senators Supported the Bill

Many senators who voted yes on the bill did so because they believe those who suffer catastrophic injuries should be able to have juries determine how much compensation they deserve for their suffering.

Senator Floyd Prozanski argued for the bill by telling the story of a two-year old who was backed over by a riding lawn mower. In 2018, a jury in Lane County ruled the majority of fault for the accident rested with the manufacturer, John Deere.

The jury in the case awarded $6.2 million in economic compensation and $3.3 million in noneconomic compensation. Unfortunately, the case is being appealed and the damages cap will likely prevent the little girl from collecting all the compensation she was awarded.

In the House, Representative Carla Piluso pointed out that children who are victims of sexual abuse and seniors abused in nursing homes do not have large medical bills, but they could have a lifetime of trauma and mental anguish.

Opponents of the Bill

One of the senators who voted against the bill, Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, is a doctor and she said people may think she voted against the bill because of it. However, she pointed out that many people in the medical community are against eliminating the damage cap because they think it will cause medical malpractice insurance rates to go up.

House Republican leader Carl Wilson cited the same concern and pointed out that the state has a difficult time drawing in people who want to be health care practitioners.

Hayward did say she supported a proposal to raise the damage cap to between $1.5 and $3 million for those injured in severe accidents. She would also be in favor of eliminating the cap for victims of repeated negligence or criminal acts that cause injury.   

Set Up a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Noneconomic Damages

Pain and suffering after an accident can have a dramatically negative impact on your life. You may struggle to participate in activities you once enjoyed. Your relationship with your spouse may suffer because you struggle to provide the same amount of love and affection as before.

Our personal injury lawyers in Portland understand this very well, as we have helped many injury victims in Oregon pursue compensation for these kinds of damages.

Contact us today for a free, no obligation legal consultation to find out how we may be able to help you during this difficult time.