Medical Malpractice Damages are meant to compensate the victim or the victim’s family for a variety of wrongs from loss of employment and earnings to mental anguish. If you or a loved one has been injured by medical malpractice then it is good to have a clear understanding of the damages you might reasonably recover as well as how you will go about receiving them. It is important to know that laws vary state by state so receiving the guidance of a local medical malpractice lawyer will be of huge value.
What Types of Damages Can I Recover in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Once your medical malpractice attorney has proven that medical malpractice caused your problems, a list of reasonable injuries will be identified along with a dollar amount for each. The three categories of damages available in medical malpractice cases are general, special, and punitive.
General damages. General damages are the portion of a patient’s suffering that are real but by nature cannot be paired with a definite cost. Common examples of general damages include physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of future earning capacity and loss of quality of spousal relationship. Clearly, every case will be slightly different and it is up to the judge to decide on the exact value of each loss or injury. A dollar value is usually determined after evidence of the suffering is provided by the victim or family members as well as an expert who is called to describe common consequences of the particular injuries sustained. The age of the victim and the severity of the injury will play a role in the amount of damage assigned since they will greatly impact the person’s need and ability to earn a salary.
Special damages. Special damages are meant to compensate for easily quantifiable expenses such as medical bills and time off of work. There may be some guesswork involved in estimating future medical expenses but special damages are a fairly exact science. In many states an expert is not called to testify about special damages because a certified copy of your medical bills is considered legitimate evidence.
Punitive damages. Punitive damages are much harder to prove and therefore it is more difficult to receive this compensation. Washington State does not allow punitive damages in most cases. The law varies from state to state but in essence your lawyer must prove that the doctor knew that he or she was behaving in a manner harmful to the patient. A horrific example would be that of a surgeon who intentionally didn’t complete a surgery successfully in order to ensure a second surgery. The amount of the damages is left to the judge or jury but is generally not allowed to be more than three to four times the amount of the special or general damages.
State Limitations on Damages
Although many states place a cap on the amount of damages a patient or their family can recover from medical malpractice, the specific limitations vary greatly. Generally, Washington State does not place caps on damages. In some states, a limit of say $650,000 is placed on all damages combined. Other states break it up by type of damage; for example the law may limit general damages but not special or punitive damages. It is also common that any money received from other sources like an insurance claim will be deducted from the amount owed by the doctor. Another common limitation is the amount that a patient’s attorney can charge for a medical malpractice case.
Damages for the Death of the Patient
Damages for the death of a patient have their own set of laws called survival statutes and wrongful death statutes.
Survival statutes. Survival statutes are meant to allow the victims’ heirs or estate to recover damages occurred from the time of the original medical malpractice until the time of death. Survival statutes damages include everything in a regular medical malpractice case minus damages for future earnings or expenses. Some survival statutes include money for funeral expenses.
Wrongful death statutes. Wrongful death statutes are meant to compensate the victim’s heirs for their future monetary loss. There is a fairly thorough calculation used to determine the dollar amount including a projection of future salary and the patient’s spending, savings and working habits. In most states only the victim’s spouse and children will be able to claim a wrongful death statute and loss of companionship or emotional harm have not been traditionally allowed.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!