Medical malpractice victims face not only extensive physical suffering but also long-lasting emotional trauma. Add exorbitant medical bills and lost wages to the picture, and it's easy to see why a single incident can become a huge, lifelong setback.
A medical malpractice lawsuit can mitigate some of these problems if legal action leads to compensation, but victims often find all this frustrating to navigate. This detailed guide can help you navigate the many types of damages available in medical malpractice settlements.
The Types of Compensatory Damages in a Medical Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice compensatory damages can take many forms, but they typically fall under one of two main categories: economic and non-economic losses. Here is a closer look at each.
At first glance, the concept of economic damages may seem confusing: Shouldn't all damages involve some element of financial compensation? This is true, but the term “economic” actually refers to the specific costs that arise directly as a result of the injury.
If a clear price tag can be attached to (or estimated for) a given concern, it likely falls within the scope of economic damages. This is best illustrated by the following important subcategories.
Medical Expenses and Health Care Costs
At a minimum, a successful medical malpractice lawsuit should compensate victims for care required following negligence-related injuries. These cost-prohibitive treatments could include everything from hospital visits to medication or even long-term physical therapy.
Patients who fail to take legal action may find that these expenses add up quickly — and that their insurance coverage is unable to keep up. Monetary damages make it easier to cover a myriad of medical expenses. These include not only those that have already been assessed but also those that are expected to continue throughout the course of the recovery process.
Future Earnings Capacity and Financial Losses
Financial losses attributed to medical malpractice injuries don't end with medical expenses. Often, patients are unable to earn as much as they did before their injuries happened. Recovery can take years and, depending on the severity of the damage, may never enable victims to fully return to work.
Damages reflecting loss of wages can take multiple forms. Generally, this is classified based on how long recovery is expected to take and whether personal injury victims are able to work part-time or at all.
When calculating these future damages, courts consider both the victim's earning capacity before the injury occurred and the reduced ability to earn a living later on. Extensive evidence is needed to verify the permanent or semi-permanent nature of the injury. This should also reveal how the injury will impede the victim from completing previous work responsibilities.
Non-economic damages may seem difficult to define, as they are far more nuanced than their strictly economic counterparts. They are best thought of as the types of harm in which a specific receipt cannot accurately be attached. Courts attempt to quantify these anyway for the purpose of compensating suffering victims.
Here is a closer look at a couple of common, non-economic damages.
Loss of Consortium
The effects of medical malpractice don't strike injured patients alone. Their spouses and close family members also suffer greatly. Non-economic damages known as “loss of consortium” or “loss of companionship” account for this reality, reflecting the victim's limited ability to provide care and affection after a medical malpractice injury.
As with pain and suffering, loss of consortium can be difficult to define in any given medical malpractice case. The mental state of the victim may be taken into account, along with the time devoted to both physical and emotional recovery. These damages are typically more extensive for plaintiffs with spouses and children. Again, a multiplier method can be used to determine loss of consortium damages based on already calculated economic compensation.
Emotional and Mental Pain and Suffering
There's no denying the physical suffering wrought by medical malpractice, but the emotional damage can sometimes be even more severe. Many patients struggle with depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. This may continue for months or even years following negligence-related injuries.
The role of the health care system can add further complications. After experiencing trauma in a medical facility, victims may find something as simple as a vaccine appointment or a wellness checkup emotionally wrenching.
Due to the subjective nature of these damages, wildly different figures are possible even for medical malpractice cases that appear quite similar. Often, witness statements play heavily into pain and suffering determinations, as does the perceived likability of the plaintiff.
Frequently, courts look to a concept known as the "multiplier" to determine emotional damages. Under this approach, the total assessed for economic damages can be multiplied by anywhere between three and five. A multiplier of five is more likely for cases involving especially severe injuries or huge deviations from the accepted medical standard of care.
Punitive Damages and Special Damages
In rare cases, medical malpractice goes beyond negligence to involve extremely reckless behavior or even malicious intent. With this type of medical malpractice litigation, courts may seek to punish defendants — and hopefully, prevent similar issues in the future.
Known as medical malpractice punitive damages, this special form of compensation can be difficult to obtain, as its threshold is far higher than the negligence seen in typical medical malpractice cases.
Punitive damages may still be worth pursuing, depending on the unique circumstances of the injured parties. Also worth considering? The anticipated impact of medical malpractice action on the health care sector at large.
Hire an Experienced Lawyer To Handle Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Were you harmed as a result of negligence in a health care setting? You may be eligible for the many types of medical malpractice damages highlighted above. The team at The Moore Law Firm can help you navigate this process, offering valuable insight into the process of calculating damages in medical malpractice cases. Be mindful that many states have deadlines called statute of limitations within which a cause of action may be brought. Any claim brought beyond the statute of limitations could be barred.
Contact the firm today to schedule your free consultation to discuss your Cincinnati medical malpractice situation, and let our skilled attorneys determine your potential next steps.