Types of Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Medical malpractice suits can be complex in many ways, including the types of damages that can be recovered. Patients who are injured by medical malpractice can sue for a range of damages beyond medical bills, including future earnings, loss of enjoyment of life, and more. In cases where negligence or malpractice have resulted in death, the patient’s family can recover damages.

In order to sue for damages resulting from medical malpractice, you must be able to:

  • Prove the injury or death was in some way caused by medical malpractice
  • Be able to place an accurate, approximate price tag on the damages sought

There are three types of damages typically awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits: general, special, and punitive.

General damages

In medical malpractice lawsuits, general damages are the “cost of suffering” caused by the injury where, although the damage is real, there is no real way to attach a price. Some of the most common examples of general damages include:

  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Future earning capacity loss
  • Pain and suffering (both physical and mental)

Because there are no clear rules for arriving at an exact amount for general damages, deciding on a dollar value often relies on evidence and testimony from the patient, family and friends, and experts.

Special damages

Where general damages are often hard to estimate, special damages are easier and more quantifiable. This type of damage includes things like medical bills (past and future) and missed work to date, resulting from the malpractice injury.

It does take some educated guesswork to determine future medical expenses, and in some cases expert testimony is useful. However, in many cases the patient can submit certified copies of medical bills to prove the amount for special damages.

Punitive damages

This type of damage is often the hardest to prove. Punitive damages are awarded when the case is made that a doctor knowingly behaved in a harmful way that caused malpractice or negligence.

When punitive damages are awarded, the judge or jury determines the amount. For most states, the amount can’t be more than a specified multiple of the general and special damages.

Medical malpractice damages and state limitations

Many state laws place a cap, or limit, that represents the maximum amount of damages you can recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The laws, and the types of damages that limits are placed on, vary from state to state.

In Florida, there is a $500,000 cap for non-economic (general and punitive) damages in cases against medical practitioners. If the case has a non-practitioner defendant, the cap is $750,000 for non-economic damages. One important note is that limitations in Florida are not applied to special damages. You can recover any amount of compensation for measurable economic losses.

The Miami trial lawyers at Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen have successfully represented many clients in medical malpractice lawsuits, and helped them receive the compensation they deserve. Contact us today to discuss the details of your medical malpractice case.

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