Can I sue a doctor for pain and suffering?
You can recover compensation for “pain and suffering” as part of a successful medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor or other health care provider, but you don’t file a lawsuit for “pain and suffering” itself.
Every medical malpractice case will have a “damages” component, which represents the harm suffered by the injured patient as a result of the medical negligence that occurred. And there are two main types of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages include losses that are pretty easy to calculate: things like the cost of additional medical treatment made necessary by the malpractice, lost income from time missed at work, and other quantifiable losses.
Non-economic damages are not as easy to sum up with a dollar figure, but they include compensation for the plaintiff’s physical pain and suffering associated with the malpractice and the worsening of an existing health condition, or the creation of a new health problem. Pain and suffering also encompasses anxiety, stress, fear, shame, and other symptoms that are more psychological than physical.
If you’re considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit and your case involves significant damages, you need to find out whether there are limitations on medical malpractice damages in your state.
A number of states have passed laws that “cap” non-economic damages (and remember, that includes pain and suffering) in medical malpractice cases.
For example, California only allows a successful plaintiff to collect $250,000 as compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. Other states have different caps depending on whether the defendant is an individual doctor or a health care facility. In Illinois, there is a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages against a doctor, and a $1 million cap against a hospital or other care facility.