If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, you may be interested in learning more about the damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. In this article, you can learn about what defines a medical malpractice lawsuit, damages available to you in medical malpractice lawsuits, how those damages may affect your settlement amount, factors that could impact your medical malpractice lawsuit, and how you can know if you've been awarded fairly.
What Are Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?
Medical malpractice lawsuits are civil suits filed in response to patients that have suffered harm under the care of healthcare providers who failed to perform their duties at the expected standard of care.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, there are four elements that your attorney must prove:
- That a professional duty was owed to the patient;
- The breach of said duty;
- That some injury was caused by the breach of duty; and
- The resulting damages of that injury.
Medical malpractice suits are difficult to navigate alone, and it is highly recommended that you seek the aid of an experienced medical malpractice attorney to guide you through the process.
Damages in Medical Malpractice Suits
In a medical malpractice suit, you can receive damage awards in the form of both economic damages and punitive damages. In addition, depending on your state, you may or may not be eligible to receive awards for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Economic damages are also sometimes called special damages. They exist to reimburse you for financial costs related to the medical malpractice you suffered. Examples of economic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit include:
- Medical coverage related to the erroneous medical treatment
- Requisite therapy to correct the resulting injuries
- Lost income if the resulting injuries caused the victim to miss work
- The cost of future medical expenses
Judges generally aren't fond of economic damages being speculative. Therefore, you should expect the need to back up your economic damages by supporting documents such as salary slips and medical bills
Punitive damages are less common than economic damages, but if your case was particularly heinous, they might be awarded. Punitive damages exist to punish the medical professional for their egregious behavior and send a warning to other medical professionals. If the judge or jury awards punitive damages, they can be considerable.
To potentially win punitive damages, your medical malpractice lawyer will need to prove the medical practitioner's mental state was more liable than negligence. For example, establishing the medical practitioner acted with intent or recklessness. This may be difficult to achieve unless the medical practitioner acted in a particularly blatant, near-criminal manner.
How Damages Can Affect Your Settlement Amount
When considering your options in medical malpractice lawsuits, it is important to consider how the damages you may be awarded can affect your settlement amount. A settlement is an agreement by both parties reached outside the court system. The settlement amount is reached via negotiations between the parties' medical malpractice lawyers. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties will revert to the court system.
On the other hand, damages are awarded via the judge or jury and may be economic, non-economic, or punitive. If you have a particularly strong case with the potential to secure large amounts in damages, your attorney should be able to negotiate larger medical malpractice settlements. However, your lawyer may feel that even a smaller settlement is a win if your case is weaker with little evidence and small amounts of damages.
It is also important to understand that some states have enacted caps or limits to the damages or settlements you can be awarded.
Factors That Impact Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Certain factors can impact your medical malpractice lawsuit, including negligence, the standard of care, the statute of limitations, and patient injury. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can explain how each of these factors affects your lawsuit.
For medical malpractice cases to be successful, the attorney must prove that the injury you sustained would never have occurred if not for the medical practitioner's negligence. Negligence is defined as the failure to behave as an ordinarily prudent medical practitioner under similar circumstances. Negligence can encompass actions and even omissions when there is a duty to act.
Standard of Care
There are certain medical standards which the law recognizes and agrees must be adhered to by medical practitioners. A patient should expect to be treated with a certain standard of care by a person who is a trained medical professional, including but not limited to doctors, nurses, anesthetists, pharmacists, and surgeons. If your medical malpractice lawyer proves that the standard of care was not met, then you may be able to prove negligence.
Statute of Limitations
Every state sets its statute of limitations to determine how long you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. The statute of limitations generally begins on the date the medical malpractice occurred. Depending on your state, your statute of limitations may range from one to five years, although two years and three years are most common.
It is vital that you meet with your medical malpractice attorney before your statute of limitations is up, so they have time to research your case and file a medical malpractice lawsuit if your case has merit.
Your medical malpractice lawyer will also need to prove that you suffered injuries as the patient due to the medical practitioner's negligence. The fact that your medical practitioner violated their standard of care is not sufficient for a medical malpractice case if it did not result in your injury. Your attorney must prove that the injury directly resulted from the medical malpractice caused by the medical practitioner's negligence.
The patient injury can come in many forms, including physical and psychiatric injuries. These injuries may include, but are not limited to:
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Psychiatric injury
- Surgical or procedural errors
- Prescription drug errors
- Childbirth injuries
If you feel that you or a loved one have suffered from a patient injury, you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.
How Can You Know if You've Been Awarded Fairly?
It is impossible to fully anticipate the total damages you will be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Economic damages are usually straightforward enough and can be estimated by adding up medical bills and hours of lost work. However, non-economic damages are another beast entirely and notoriously difficult to approximate.
The best thing you can do to ensure you will be awarded fairly is to hire a reputable and experienced medical malpractice attorney to fight for you in court.
Ratzan Weissman & Boldt has built their firm on handling the most complex medical malpractices cases. Over the past 7 years alone, they have recovered over $200 million in trial verdicts alone for their clients. They are regularly recognized and awarded as some of the best medical malpractice lawyers in the country.
If you are a loved one was the victim of medical malpractice, contact us today to learn more about your options. Consultations are always free, and we never get paid unless and until you do. Call us at (305) 374-6366 or use our online form.