If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, you can recover a wide variety of damages which include medical bills, loss of enjoyment of life and future earning losses. If the medical malpractice results in the death of a patient, the patient’s family and heirs can also recover damages. This article will discuss the types of damages that patients and their families can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits.
In order for a patient to get a damage award, the patient must show the following:
- That the medical malpractice caused the damages in some way and
- That some kind of approximate price tag can be put on the damages
There are three categories of damages available in medical malpractice cases and these are general, special and punitive.
General damages refer to the patient’s cost of suffering that cannot have a definite price tag placed on it. The most common examples of general damages include the following:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Physical and mental pain and suffering
- Loss of future earning capacity
Each case is unique in its own way and there are no clear rules about how the exact amount of damages is determined. In order to arrive at a dollar value, the patient and others will give evidence about the patient’s pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, etc. Further, an expert might need to testify and give evidence about the typical consequences of the patient’s injury. If the patient is relatively young and the injury will result in long-term impairment, expert testimony about how to estimate the value of lost earning incapacity may be necessary. However, it must be noted that general damages are not available for an injury that existed prior to the malpractice, or the pain and suffering that a pre-malpractice injury by itself will cause in the future.
Special damages cover the more quantifiable expenses caused by the medical malpractice which include medical bills and past missed work. It must be noted that special damages are typically more exact than general damages. An expert may still be necessary, however, simply submitting a certified copy of medical bills is good enough depending on the facts of the case.
Damages that can be recovered in the event of the death of a patient as a result of medical malpractice includes the following:
- Survival statutes - these allow the deceased patient’s heirs or estate to recover damages that occurred during the time period from the initial medical malpractice to the death of the patient. Such damages generally include everything allowed in a medical malpractice lawsuit had the patient survived, except for damages relating to the future e.g. earning capacity. This may also cover funeral expenses when relating to wrongful death statutes.
- Wrongful death statutes - these are designed to compensate the patient’s family for their future monetary loss. The calculation is more thorough than a simple projection of future salary, it takes into consideration factors like the patient’s spending, saving and working habits.
For more information on medical malpractice, seek out Anchorage attorneys.