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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. They are assessed in light of the nature, extent, and length of time the injury lasts.

Sometimes a person is so severely injured that he or she cannot care and support loved ones the way he or she did before the injury. In appropriate circumstances, the law permits damages to be recovered by spouses, children, and parents of negligently injured people for the loss of the love, care, affection, companionship, and other pleasures of the family relationship that are lost because of the injury.

Family members, including the spouse, children and parents, can be compensated for the wrongful death of a loved one. The damages include: the loss of financial support that would have been provided by deceased, the grief suffered by the family, the loss of companionship suffered by the family, any physical and mental pain suffered by the deceased prior to death and the medical and burial expenses incurred. In the death of a minor child, only the parents are entitled to damages. The damages include: medical and burial expenses, loss of anticipated services and support, loss of love and companionship of the child and the destruction of the parent/child relationship. Also recoverable by the parents are monies expended in the support, maintenance and education of the child.

Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant and deter others from similar conduct. Punitive damages may be awarded only if the claimant proves that the defendant acted intentionally and maliciously or with reckless disregard for the rights of others. In cases of reckless disregard, punitive damages are limited to the greater of $100,000 or the amount of compensatory damages. In cases of intentional and malicious acts, they are limited to the greater of $500,000, twice­compensatory damages, or the benefit derived by defendant from his conduct. If the judge finds that the intentional and malicious act threatened human life, the cap does not apply. The court will reduce punitive damages if it finds that the defendant has already paid punitive damages in Oklahoma for the same misconduct.

For the state and its political subdivisions, liability is limited to $100,000 to any claimant for personal injury, except the liability is increased to $200,000 for the Oklahoma Medical Center and mental health hospitals operated by the state`s Department of Mental Health. Liability is limited to $1,000,000 for claims arising out of any one occurrence. The liability of residents and interns in a graduate program of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and the Oklahoma College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery may not exceed $100,000.

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