If you or a loved one has been a victim of malpractice, you undoubtedly want to be compensated for the losses you have incurred. A monetary recovery in a medical malpractice case cannot undo the harm that was caused, but it can alleviate the financial burden that resulted from it. While there is no way to know exactly what your case is worth until it is settled or goes to trial, there are some standards for calculating damages in malpractice lawsuits. Basically, there are two types of damages awarded in cases where malpractice is proven:
- Economic Damages – these are damages that are capable of exact calculation.
- Non-economic Damages – these are damages that are not capable of exact calculation.
In many cases, the total of the two categories is the value of the malpractice case. It may appear to be a simple calculation, but knowing what numbers to enter isn’t always easy, and your attorney may hire a medical economist to determine the appropriate amounts to put into the equation.
Economic damages include lost wages (past and future), medical bills, and other specific financial losses that resulted from the injury caused by malpractice. Calculating past lost earnings and medical bills is cut and dry. The difficulty is determining potential future earnings and future medical bills. Some malpractice cases deal with catastrophic injuries that will require a lifetime of medical care, which can become very costly. In these types of cases, a medical economist may be used to explain these damages to the jury.
Non-economic damages include the damages that do not have an exact dollar amount assigned to them. These types of damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium. There really are no guidelines for assigning a monetary value to the pain and suffering that resulted from the injury. That makes determining the damages for pain and suffering difficult. Although insurance companies use a “multiplier” to calculate pain and suffering (they value your pain and suffering as being worth some multiple of your economic damages), when a case goes to a jury, the jury does not. There are, however, some factors that do affect the jury’s decision on damages for pain and suffering, and they include:
- whether the plaintiff was a good or bad witness
- whether the plaintiff was likeable
- whether the jury believed the plaintiff to be honest
- whether the jury thought the defendant or the defendant’s witnesses were honest
- whether the plaintiff had a criminal record
- whether the jury could understand the injuries suffered by the plaintiff
- whether the plaintiff is alive in the courtroom, or deceased
You can see that pain and suffering damages awarded can be quite subjective. That is just one reason that an experienced malpractice attorney is needed to represent patients in these cases. It is up to your attorney to present the jury with compelling arguments as to the degree that you have suffered due to the injuries you sustained because of negligence.
Loss of consortium is considered when awarding damages. It refers to the loss of the intangible benefits that the malpractice victim provided to his or her family. It is commonly thought of as the effect that the injury has on the physical relationship the plaintiff has with a spouse, however, it actually refers to the effect the injury has had on the whole relationship between the plaintiff and the entire family.
Caps on Damages
In some states there are laws that cap the amount of damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases, no matter how devastating the injury was. Pennsylvania does not have caps on the amount that can be awarded for non-economic damages.
Settlement Value vs. Trial Value
In determining the value of your case, you also have to consider the settlement value and trial value. The settlement value is the amount for which your attorney would settle the case. The trial value is the amount that you would expect to be awarded if your case goes to trial. Settlement value is generally less than the potential result of a successful jury verdict, but should be considered because it avoids the risk of losing at trial and walking away with nothing.
Assigning a value to the damages you suffer due to malpractice is complicated. That is just one of many reasons that you need a competent, knowledgeable malpractice attorney for representation. At Ross Feller Casey, we have the expertise in these cases. Our malpractice attorneys are successful in winning cases and receiving substantial financial awards for our clients. We have highly trained and renowned team of physicians right on staff to review medical records and evaluate malpractice cases.
If you believe that you or a family member is a victim of medical malpractice, contact one of Ross Feller Casey’s malpractice attorneys today for your free case evaluation. All of our medical malpractice cases are handled on a contingency basis, so you will not be charged unless there is a financial recovery in your case.