What Damages Are Available in a Medical Malpractice Case?
Ragain & Clark August 17, 2023
In order to pursue a medical malpractice case, you must prove that you suffered some type of harm. In other words, the fact that your doctor or other healthcare provider made a mistake is not, by itself, sufficient to support a claim. For example, someone who suffers a permanent disability as a result of medical malpractice would be able to pursue a claim. That said, the harm you suffer does not need to be as drastic as a permanent disability. Understanding the compensation you may be entitled to is critical to deciding whether you need to pursue a claim. If you believe that you have suffered as a result of medical negligence, a medical malpractice attorney can review your case and provide an estimate of what damages you may be able to recover.
Medical malpractice typically results in considerable financial losses for victims. Some of the most common economic damages that victims face include the following:
- Medical expenses. These can include medical expenses required to treat the effects of the malpractice (e.g. visits to the ER, additional surgeries, etc.) as well as ongoing or future medical expenses if the condition resulting from the malpractice will require future care.
- Lost income. If you are unable to work or your inability to work is prolonged as a result of the malpractice, you can seek compensation for your lost income. This can also include lost earning capacity and other losses if you suffer a long-term or permanent disability or if you are only to work part-time.
- Other financial costs. This can include things like increased transportation costs if you are unable to drive, the need for live-in care, or modifications to your home.
Your economic damages are essentially any financial cost or loss that can be represented as a specific dollar amount. For this reason, they are typically the easiest damages to prove. The challenge is keeping track of the documentation so that you can prove this portion of your claim. A medical malpractice attorney can handle the paperwork so that you can focus on your recovery.
Obviously, the harm caused by medical malpractice extends far beyond financial costs and losses. Medical malpractice victims can face difficulties with daily living, such as being unable to take care of themselves or their family, unable to enjoy their hobbies, or unable to perform basic tasks. In addition, victims can experience physical pain and discomfort as well as mental and emotional anguish.
If you have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to non-economic damages for the following:
- Your pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment
- Diminished quality of life
- Mental trauma
Non-economic damages are difficult to prove because they cannot be objectively documented. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will know how to build a compelling case to support fair compensation for your pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
A Note About Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are controversial and many states have imposed caps on them. Montana has a cap on non-economic damages specifically for medical malpractice cases, limiting them to $250,000. Wyoming has no such cap. Your lawyer can explain how this will affect your claim.
What About Punitive Damages?
Economic and non-economic damages are types of compensatory damages – damages that are awarded to compensate you for a specific loss. Punitive damages, however, are damages that are awarded in order to punish the at-fault party and dissuade others from being similarly negligent. As a result, punitive damages are infrequently awarded and only in cases where the healthcare provider’s conduct was wilful, malicious, or otherwise outrageous. Wyoming requires that punitive damages be proven by a “preponderance of the evidence” with no cap on the amount that can be awarded. Montana, on the other hand, requires a higher burden of proof – “clear and convincing” – and limits punitive damages to $10 million or 3% of the defendant’s net worth, whichever is greater.
Attorney’s Fees and Court Costs
Attorney’s fees and court costs are typically not awarded in medical malpractice cases as they might be in other types of legal claims. However, this does not mean that you will need to pay your legal fees and other costs out of pocket. Most, if not all, medical malpractice firms charge their attorney’s fees on a contingency basis. While there are some nuances in how a particular firm’s contingency fee might apply to your case, the bottom line is that you do not have to pay any legal fees unless you win your case.
Talk to a Medical Malpractice Attorney at Ragain & Clark Today
At Ragain & Clark, we know what it takes to get results. If you have suffered as a result of medical malpractice, we can help you get fair compensation. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 307-388-6400 (Worland) or 406-651-8888 (Billings) to discuss how we can help you move forward.