Medical Malpractice Law

Damages: Compensation for Medical Malpractice

After a medical injury, the victim may be left unable to work and with a pile of medical bills. The losses and expenses related to a medical malpractice claim are known as damages. A medical malpractice claim can help the injury victim recover damages for their medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.

If you have questions about damages and compensation for medical malpractice injuries, talk to a medical malpractice lawyer in a city near you to get legal advice about your case.

What Are Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case?

Damages is a term for the compensation the injury victim can recover in a civil lawsuit. For example, if someone was injured in a car accident because of driver negligence, the personal injury victim could sue the driver to recover money for medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, and other losses associated with the accident. For a medical malpractice case, the most common damages are for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

What Types of Damages Are Available?

Most damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit are known as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are supposed to compensate the victim enough to put them back into a similar place they would have been but for the accident. This can be impossible when someone suffers a permanent injury, such as losing a limb. Types of damages that may be available in a medical malpractice case include:

  • Economic damages
  • Non-economic damages
  • Court costs and attorney fees
  • Punitive damages: These are generally not available in medical malpractice cases. Punitive damages are intended to punish bad behavior, and may only be available if a healthcare provider intentionally caused injuries or harm.

The party that is found liable is responsible for paying for the damages done. In a medical malpractice case, malpractice liability could involve a doctor, surgeon, clinic, hospital, or other medical professionals.

Economic Damages

Economic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit include any financial losses or expenses related to the injury. The most common types of economic damages include medical bills and loss of income. For example, if a medical injury requires multiple surgeries to correct the error and the injured person cannot return to work for one month, damages could cover their medical bills and lost wages.

Economic damages can include current losses and future losses. Patients who suffer a permanent injury may require ongoing medical care related to their injuries. Economic damages can consist of the estimated costs of future medical expenses and future loss of earning capacity. Future damages are generally calculated by medical expert witnesses. The jury may hear evidence about the estimated future damages and determine how much to award the injury victim.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages do not always have a precise compensation amount. For example, how much money should an injured patient get if they will suffer chronic back pain because of a medical error? The jury generally determines non-economic damages. After the jury hears the case and the types of non-economic damages requested, the jury can come up with a fair compensation amount for those damages.

Non-economic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of consortium

Caps on Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case

Some states limit the amount of non-economic damages an injury victim can recover in a medical malpractice case. About half of states cap medical malpractice damages. Other states have found damages caps to be unconstitutional. For example, in Florida, a damages cap was found to arbitrarily reduce damage awards for patients who suffer injuries and ruled unconstitutional.

The caps on non-economic damages have been promoted by the healthcare and insurance industries. In California, there has been a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases since 1975. The cap was initially set at only $250,000. However, starting in 2023, the cap will be increased to $350,000 for claims that do not involve wrongful death, rising by $40,000 yearly until it reaches a maximum of $750,000.

Texas also has a cap on malpractice awards. For example, if a medical patient in Houston is injured by medical negligence, the patient can only recover $250,000 in non-economic damages. For cases involving multiple health care institutions, the maximum non-economic damages cap is $500,000, limited to $250,000 per institution.

What Is a Patient Compensation Fund?

patient compensation fund (PCF) is a state program that may help cover some of the damages associated with a medical injury. The PCF systems are funded through medical malpractice insurance premiums. After a medical malpractice award or settlement is made, the malpractice insurance provider will pay damages up to a certain amount, and the PCF will pay the remainder.

Only some states have a PCF program. For example, there are two PCF plans in Florida: the Birth-­Related Neurological Injury Compensation Plan and the Florida Patient Compensation Fund. The first plan is for medical malpractice damages related to severe, birth-­related injuries without regard to medical negligence.

What Are Damages in a Fatal Medical Malpractice Accident?

In a fatal medical malpractice case, the victim is no longer around to file a lawsuit on their own. To ensure the negligent medical provider does not get away with their mistakes, a wrongful death lawsuit can help the family recover compensation. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the deceased’s estate or by surviving family members, depending on the state. Damages in wrongful death cases can include funeral expenses, burial costs, and loss of support

How Can I Find Out How Much Compensation I Can Get?

The amount of compensation the injury victim can recover depends on several factors, including the extent of the injuries, types of injuries, and age of the victim. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can evaluate your case, explain your legal options, and help you understand how much compensation you can receive for a medical injury. If a family member died from a medical mistake, you might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

There may be a limited time to file a malpractice lawsuit under the statute of limitations. Make sure you contact a medical malpractice lawyer in your area before it is too late to file your claim. Most medical malpractice attorneys even offer a free initial consultation to give you a case evaluation to help you understand your case.

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