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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 family members 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 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. There is a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages in wrongful death actions.
Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for reckless or malicious conduct and deter others from similar conduct. Punitive damages are not recoverable in a civil action unless it is proven that the defendant has acted with malice or a conscious, reckless and outrageous indifference to the health, safety, and welfare of others. Public bodies and their employees are immune from liability for punitive damages. Punitive damages cannot be awarded against physicians and nurses unless there is malice, but may be awarded against hospitals.
Compensatory damages are limited in cases against public bodies and their employees. Damages are capped at $100,000 for economic damages, $100,000 for noneconomic damages and $500,000 total per occurrence.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified medical malpractice lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local medical malpractice attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.