What Kind of Damages Can I Recover In A Medical Malpractice Case?
Patients place the entirety of their trust in medical care providers, so when a physician fails to provide adequate care or when a patient is injured because of their negligence, it can be a harrowing experience.
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional’s negligence or failure to provide an adequate standard of care leads to harm or injury to a patient. If you or a loved one have been a victim of medical malpractice, it’s essential to understand the potential damages you may be able to recover.
Below, we’ll explore the different types of damages that can be pursued in a medical malpractice case, providing valuable insights to help you navigate this complex legal process.
Types of Damages
In a legal context, the term “damages” refers to the monetary compensation awarded to a person who has suffered harm or loss due to another party’s wrongful actions or negligence. Damages are a way to provide financial compensation and relief for the harm the offender caused. They aim to restore the injured party to the position they were in before the wrongdoing occurred, to whatever extent possible.
Different types of damages may be awarded to a victim of medical malpractice, including:
Economic damages have a clear financial value attached to them, such as bills, medical costs, and other monetary expenses.
Non-Economic Damages do not have a clear financial value attached to them and are typically awarded for non-tangible losses such as pain and suffering or mental anguish.
Punitive damages may be awarded in certain cases where the defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious or malicious. These damages go beyond compensating the plaintiff and are meant to punish the defendant and deter similar misconduct in the future.
Let’s go over each type of damage in more detail.
Economic or compensatory damages aim to reimburse the victim for financial losses directly resulting from medical malpractice. Economic damages have a quantifiable dollar value and typically have something such as a receipt, a bill, or any other form of documentation that shows their importance. If you are a victim of medical malpractice, you may be eligible to receive compensation for economic damages such as:
- Medical Expenses: You can seek compensation for current and future medical expenses related to treating the injury or condition caused by malpractice. This includes hospital stays, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and ongoing care costs.
- Medical Bills: Medical costs related to your medical malpractice suit can be compensated. So, for instance, if you had to undergo corrective surgery to fix a surgical mistake, those medical expenses would be part of your claim. You can also request compensation for the cost of any ongoing or future medical treatment you will need.
- Current and Future Lost Wages: Recovering from a medical accident can be a lengthy process that could prevent you from working, which can result in lost income. Lost income is considered a recoverable damage, both present and future.
- Lost Earning Potential: Additionally, some victims of medical malpractice may have chronic conditions that leave them unable to work at the same level they were before the accident. If you have to cut back on your hours or take a lower-paying job as a direct result of the harm you sustained, you can request compensation for your lost earning potential.
- Disability: The repercussions of some medical mistakes can be debilitating. If the malpractice left you disabled, you can seek damages to compensate you for your disability.
- Lost Income: If a doctor’s negligent actions resulted in receiving fewer work earnings than average, you might be eligible to recover lost wages and potential future income losses.
- Rehabilitation and Therapy Costs: If you need specific rehabilitation or therapy to recover function or deal with the effects of malpractice, these costs can be considered as part of the economic damages.
Non-economic damages compensate for losses beyond financial ones, such as the physical and emotional pain caused by injuries. It’s difficult to quantify these damages as they don’t have a specific monetary value. However, your state’s laws will determine the types and amounts of non-economic damages you can be awarded in a medical malpractice suit. In most states, you will be eligible to be compensated for any of the below damages:
- Pain and Suffering: Oftentimes, paying your medical bills and lost wages does not begin to compensate you for the awful experience of being a medical malpractice victim. Hence why you are able to recover economic compensation for your pain and suffering damages. The amount you can recover for such damages will vary depending on the jurisdiction-specific laws governing your claim.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: If your injuries have permanently changed how you live and the joy you receive out of daily life, you can pursue compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life.
- Disfigurement: If the harm you suffered from the medical error caused extensive scarring or left scars in a prominent place—such as your face, throat, hands, or arms—you might have a claim for disfigurement. Disfigurement can lead to depression, low self-image, and social isolation.
- Loss of Consortium: Your significant other might have a claim for loss of consortium if the injury affects your relationship. Some states require a physical impact to qualify, such as impaired intimacy, while others allow an award for psychological harm to the relationship.
- Loss of Support, Services, and Guidance: If you cannot provide the financial support you did before the injury, your family has suffered a loss. Also, if you now have to hire someone to perform services you cannot do due to a medical error—such as watching the children, preparing meals, cleaning the house, or doing yard work—the household has lost those services. If you suffer mental or psychological harm that leaves you unable to provide the advice and guidance to your family that you could before, your family has lost out on your valuable guidance, meaning that you can request compensation for all these losses.
Sometimes, a judge or jury may deem a medical physician’s actions excessively willful, malicious, or grossly negligent. In such cases, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages essentially act as a form of punishment and are intended to deter similar misconduct from occurring in the future.
Wrongful Death Damages
In extenuating cases where medical malpractice leads to the death of a patient, another form of damages, called wrongful death damages, can be pursued through a lawsuit. These damages may include funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and other related losses the surviving family members suffered.
When medical professionals make mistakes, it can have serious consequences for patients and their loved ones. Medical malpractice cases can lead to physical, emotional, and financial difficulties.
It’s essential to understand the types of damages that can be sought in these cases in order to receive fair compensation. To do this, it’s recommended that you speak with a skilled medical malpractice attorney who can evaluate your situation and guide you through the legal process.
Remember, seeking legal recourse can help you recover from the harm caused by medical negligence and move forward with your life.