Posted by Paulson & Nace, PLLC on 08/18/2017

What Kind of Damages Are Awarded in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

What Kind of Damages Are Awarded in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

The civil justice system in the United States provides a venue represented by the courts where citizens who have been injured due to another person's negligence can seek compensation for their injuries and losses. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the defendant would be the doctor who allegedly caused your injury, it might also include the hospital that employs the doctor, or the manufacturer of the defective medical equipment that the doctor used or the medical device that they implanted in your body.

Whether you settle your claim for damages with your doctor's insurance company out of court, as most cases are done, or if there is a trial and the jury awards a verdict, there are several different types of compensatory damages available to you as the plaintiff. It is important to understand that there is a range of amounts that plaintiffs receive in medical malpractice lawsuits, and sometimes, the jury does not rule in favor of the plaintiff. Let us consider here the various types of damages available in a medical malpractice claim in Washington, DC, which can be broken out into three broad categories:

Economic damages

As the name implies, economic damages are those that can be quantified – i.e., tallied up and assigned a specific number. They might include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Funeral costs, in the event of a wrongful death

In many injury cases, property loss is also considered an economic damage, though it is rarely applicable in medical malpractice cases.

Non-economic damages

These damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the intangible losses they have endured because of their injury, and might include:

  • Severe emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent loss of function
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of consortium (for a spouse)

Punitive damages

The intent of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their actions in causing the plaintiff's injuries. In Washington, DC, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the following by a preponderance of the evidence. Under the Standardized Civil Jury Instructions for the District of Columbia:

  • “that the defendant acted with evil motive, actual malice, deliberate violence or oppression, or with intent to injure, or in willful disregard for the rights of the plaintiff; and
  • that the defendant’s conduct itself was outrageous, grossly fraudulent, or reckless toward the safety of the plaintiff.”

Medical malpractice cases are complicated and they require the services of medical experts to investigate the case. You improve your chances of prevailing with your case when you have an experienced attorney protecting your interests.

Please contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC through our site or by calling 202.930.0292.

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