What Damages Can Be Recovered For Medical Malpractice?

As a victim of medical malpractice, you can sue for your injuries and all of the direct consequences of those injuries. Actual damages refers to the amount of money it would take to fully compensate you and place you in the same position you would have been in had the injury never taken place. You can recover your actual economic losses such as the costs of reasonable and necessary medical care, rehabilitative services, costs of domestic services, and loss of earnings. The law allows compensation for future medical and care expenses that the claimant can prove will be reasonably necessary to treat the injury caused by the malpractice. The claim may include income the claimant can prove will probably be lost in the future because of the injuries. Loss of earning capacity is also allowed when the patient proves he or she is less able to earn a living as a result of the injuries caused by the malpractice.

You are also entitled to non­economic damages for physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional suffering, physical impairment, inconvenience, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium (disruption of your personal relationship with your spouse), etc. There is no definite standard of calculating reasonable compensation for these types of damages other than being just and reasonable in light of the evidence.

In certain instances, damages may be awarded to families of injured claimants for loss of care, companionship, love and affection. Family members can be compensated for the wrongful death of a loved one. These damages may include medical and burial expenses, loss of income that would have supported the family members, and contributions the deceased would have made in the way of comfort, assistance, advice, protection, companionship, etc. Damages for loss of emotional pleasure and punitive damages are not recoverable in a wrongful death action.

Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant and deter others from similar conduct. They are only awarded upon clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with malice or wanton and willful disregard of persons who foreseeably might be harmed. No defendant is liable for punitive damages in an amount in excess of five times the liability of that defendant for compensatory damages, or $350,000, whichever is greater.

Public entities are not liable for damages for pain and suffering unless the claimant suffered a loss of bodily function, permanent disfigurement or dismemberment, and medical expenses are in excess of $1,000. Public entities are not liable for punitive damages. Non­profit hospitals are only liable for damages up to $250,000.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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