What kind of compensation is available for medical negligence?


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Question:

What kind of compensation can my family and I get for a disability that resulted from negligent medical care? If we file a medical malpractice lawsuit, will we be compensated for more than just the medical expenses?

Answer:

There are a wide variety of damages (compensation) available in a medical negligence case. The two main categories are economic and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages: Income and Medical Bills

Economic damages are things that a medical malpractice plaintiff has lost (or paid) as a direct result of the defendant's wrongdoing or medical negligence.

Common examples of economic damages are lost income, reduced ability (or complete inability) to earn a living, reimbursement of past medical expenses, and ongoing compensation for necessary future medical care.

Oftentimes, when medical malpractice results in permanent or long-lasting disability, computation of future lost income and the cost of future care will need to be done by economic expert witnesses, using complex formulas.

Non-Economic Damages: Pain and Suffering

Non-economic damages are those that 1) are not easily "quantified" and 2) tend to be more subjective from plaintiff to plaintiff. The most common example of non-economic damages is compensation for pain and suffering due to medical malpractice.

In many medical malpractice lawsuits, compensation for pain and suffering will make up the largest portion of the court award or settlement money.

However, many states have placed caps on the amount of money that may be awarded for non-economic damages, partially in an effort to minimize the cost of medical malpractice insurance for hospitals and doctors. Does your state have this kind of cap? Check out State-by-State Medical Malpractice Laws.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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