Understanding Potential Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

There are so many bright and amazing professionals in the medical community. However, not all doctors and nurses are alike, and even those with great skill are capable of making mistakes or having oversights. When that happens and a patient is harmed unnecessarily, then under the civil law, the patient (and their family) may be able to receive compensation for their losses. 

One common question that local residents have in the aftermath of medical malpractice involves the specific type of recovery. What damages are you entitled to receive?

Medical Malpractice Damages
In all civil lawsuits, there are two types of damages that can be awarded: compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory damages are exactly what they sound like — intended to compensate a victim for what they lost due to the wrongdoing of the other party.  These can be further classified as either economic or noneconomic.

In medical malpractice cases, economic compensatory damages include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity — This refers to harm that makes it difficult for the individual to earn a certain amount of money from work after the injury. It provides compensation to those who may not have a specific job at the time of the malpractice but whose future work prospects were nevertheless harmed.

The other type of compensatory damages, noneconomic damages, are not as easily quantifiable. This is part of the reason some states attempt to limit them. Common example of  noneconomic damage includes: 

  • Pain and suffering – A court may award pain and suffering damages to a plaintiff, in effect saying that the plaintiff would not have to experience that emotional harm if it hadn’t been for the defendant’s actions, therefore the plaintiff should be compensated.
  • Loss of consortium – This is a recovery for the legal spouse of the injured patient. It covers losses like comfort, companionship, and affection.

Punitive damages are quite unique and very distinct from compensatory damages. As can be inferred from the name, punitive damages are a punishment that is not directly connected to any specific ‘loss” suffered by the harmed party. In theory, the purpose of these awards was to deter others from acting similarly and hopefully prevent future tragedies. To be awarded these damages in any civil case, the defendant’s conduct usually must be particularly reckless or intentional. In other words, they would not apply to instances where someone makes a simple mistake–no matter how damaging.

When it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits, punitive damages virtually never come into play. That is because doctors almost never intentionally mean to cause harm– the opposite is usually true, as the entire purpose of medicine is to heal.

Contact a Malpractice Attorney
If you think you have a medical malpractice claim, it is critical to contact an experienced lawyer, like a medical malpractice lawyer from Darrell Castle and Associates, PLLC, to discuss your case. He or she will be able to tell you if you have a chance for compensation.