For the first time in almost 2 decades, lawmakers in Indiana have agreed to increase the state’s cap on damages in medical malpractice cases. Currently, Indiana has one of the lowest caps in the nation, with a limit of $1.25 million for total damages. The new legislation, Senate Bill 28, offers a 2-part increase: caps on damages would be raised to $1.65 million for incidents which occur after June 30, 2017, and would be further increased to $1.8 million in mid-2019.

Senator Brent Steele (R-Bedford), the driving force behind the new legislation, originally proposed incremental increases every 4 years to keep up with inflation, but this was met by stiff opposition from the Indiana State Medical Association, which represents clinicians. Steele then proposed a gradual increase of the caps to $2.25 million by 2031. This proposal was also met with opposition by clinician groups. Finally, all parties agreed on the 2-step approach, with the caps maxing out at $1.8 million in 2019. Republicans had been determined to increase the cap out of concern that the state’s low cap would face a constitutional challenge – at least 5 states have now ruled that malpractice caps are unconstitutional.

“These are modest updates that I think will strike that balance between the interests of patients and providers but will still make Indiana a very attractive place to practice medicine,” said Brian Tabor, executive vice president of the Indiana Hospitals Association. The bill passed 49-0 in the state Senate and will now head to Governor Mike Pence to be signed.

“It was extremely important for the General Assembly to pass this legislation because the current cap hasn’t been updated in nearly 20 years, making our entire medical malpractice system vulnerable to a constitutional challenge,” said Sen. Steele, who retires this year.

The nonpartisan group, Legislative Services Agency, predicts that the increase will have little effect on medical malpractice premiums for clinicians because most malpractice awards in the state are paid by the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund.