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What damages can I recover in a medical malpractice case?
- March 28, 2017
Medical malpractice can lead to short-term or long-term consequences. Many people have misconceptions about what types of damages a court is likely to award when the counsel for the plaintiff presents a case that clearly shows malpractice did occur. There are three basic categories that encompass the kind of damages an injured party can receive.
The broadest category associated with malpractice settlements is known as general damages. Assigning some type of monetary value to things like the amount of physical and emotional pain triggered by the event or the loss of an ability to enjoy a reasonable quality of life is not a simple task. There’s also the matter of projecting how the results of the negligent actions have affected the future earning potential of the patient.
When seeking general damages, a personal injury lawyer will often focus on how many more years the client would’ve been part of the work force and the type of earning trends associated with that particular line of work. In terms of emotional distress, testimony from a mental health expert will provide some insight into what the client has experienced. In like manner, testimony from physicians can confirm the level of physical pain that resulted from the actions of the responsible party.
Seeking special damages in relation to a malpractice settlement does involve relying on information that is easier to qualify. For example, seeking compensation for all medical expenses incurred up to the time of the settlement would be easier to calculate. All it would take is totaling the out of pocket expense associated with all treatments administered since the malpractice took place.
It would also be a simple matter to determine how much the client has lost in the way of income. When the client has a job with an hourly rate and has not been able to report to work, multiplying that hourly rate by the number of hours missed results in a solid figure. Individuals with salaried positions would be able to seek their usual monthly compensation. It’s also possible to project lost income if the client works on a commission only basis by averaging the monthly income from the twelve months prior to the malpractice.
Special damages also include projections of future medical expenses. Will the client need more counseling or some type of physical therapy? Perhaps there must be provisions made for the use of equipment that provides the client with some degree of mobility. Will a nurse or professional caregiver be needed in the years to come? If so, these potential expenses can be projected based on current costs and adjusted to reflect the typical increase in the cost of living.
Punitive damages will apply when the responsible party took specific actions that led to the current state of the patient. Intention is a key factor in deciding if these types of damages apply. When it can be proved that the actions were deliberate and the medical professional knew that they would harm the patient, there is grounds to seek these kinds of damages.
For example, a doctor chooses to take steps that ensure the patient will have to come back for more medical treatment. Had those actions not been taken, the patient would have recovered quickly and there would not have been a need for a second round of treatments. In this scenario, the choice was deliberate and carried out with no regard for the health or the suffering the patient ultimately experienced.
Actions such as choosing to withhold medication, deliberately failing to follow a standard and typical safeguard during a surgical procedure, or providing the patient with a diagnosis that the professional knows is incorrect would also be grounds for punitive damages. The amount would depend on the severity of the outcome, and what type of future physical and mental issues are likely to arise from those choices.
If you have been injured due to the actions of a medical professional, seek the services of a personal injury attorney. Go over what has taken place and discuss the impact that the event had on physical and mental well being, quality of life, and the prospects for the future. With the aid of legal counsel, it is possible to seek damages that are in line with what has taken place and improve the odds of a court finding the request to be reasonable.