Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice can leave a victim with mounting medical bills, lost wages while seeking treatment for injuries sustained due to malpractice and a permanent reduction to their quality of life. Understanding the types of damages that can be collected in relation to medical malpractice is essential to collect an appropriate amount of compensation for monetary and intangible losses.

Types of Malpractice Damages

The first step to receiving damages in a medical malpractice case is proving that any damages that are suffered by the patient are the result of the incident involving malpractice. There must be a way to assign a monetary value to damages in order to award the patient compensation.

There are three types of damages that can be cited in a medical malpractice case.
General damages typically refer to the pain and suffering experienced by the patient because of medical malpractice. If the patient’s quality of life is significantly and permanently reduced because of malpractice, they will be able to request general damages. Any wages that are lost because a person is no longer able to work would also fall under general damages. Special damages tend to be easier to quantify than general damages because they involve items with a definitive cost. Medical bills that are related to treatment received to reverse injury done as a result of malpractice fall into this category. Wages that are lost while a patient is recovering from their injuries could also be considered special damages.

Punitive damages are not as easily defined as special or general damages. In order to be awarded punitive damages, the patient must be able to prove that the medical professional involved in medical malpractice maliciously caused harm for person gain. An example would be a situation in which a doctor fails to treat a condition in hopes that their patient will require more expensive treatment options.

Caps on Damages

Any maximum amounts allowed to be awarded as damages to a patient will vary by state. The cap on damages could be related to one category of damages or the combined total of all three types of damages.

Some states allow doctors to reduce the damages that they must pay to a patient by the amount that insurance has paid in relation to medical malpractice. There may also be maximum amounts set on charges from attorneys who are representing the patient in a malpractice case.

Malpractice Resulting in Death

Damages in malpractice cases that result in the death of the patient can fall under two separate statutes.

Survival statutes give the estate of the deceased the right to seek the same damages that the deceased would have been afforded. However, any damages related to long term loss of quality of life or loss of wages will not be allowed in this case. Final expenses of the deceased are typically recovered as part of a separate lawsuit known as the wrongful death case.

Wrongful death statutes allow immediate family members of the deceased to collect damages for losses that they may suffer because their loved one is gone. A small number of states even allow family members to receive damages for emotional suffering related to the loss of a loved one.

Getting Help with Malpractice

It is recommended that a victim of medical malpractice seek advice from a legal professional before filing a lawsuit. Attorneys have the knowledge and experience needed to represent patients after medical malpractice has left them with physical and emotional scars. If a patient is concerned about the cost of consulting an attorney, many law offices offer free consultations.

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