WHAT KIND OF COMPENSATION CAN I EXPECT IN A MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE ACTION?
As in any case involving a civil tort the plaintiff’s primary concern is economic recovery for damages incurred. This is certainly true with medical negligence. Depending on the extent and severity of the injury incurred due to a medical professional’s negligence the compensation may be high. The forms of medical negligence compensation take two (2) forms. These are Economic damages and Non-Economic damages.
Economic damages can take the form of out-of-pocket expenses such as hospital bills, medication expenses, nursing care or other costs associated with convalescence required as a result of the clinical negligence. Economic damages can also take the form of Lost Wages associated with the clinical negligence. These damages include the money the plaintiff would have made had it not been for the clinical negligence. In evaluating the extent of damages due to lost wages it is important to show all evidence of, not only present lost wages, but also future lost wages that the plaintiff would have made if not for the injury.
For example, if Peggy is injured at age 14 because of medical malpractice it would be prudent to put on evidence that her grades, natural intelligence, honors, etc. would show that it was very likely that she would have gone to an Ivy league school and eventually received a high salary as an accountant. Although this analysis is far from a concrete showing of future gain, it is in the best interest of the plaintiff to put forth all possible information that may lead a jury to rule that future wages would have been exceptional.
Non-economic damages refer to those damages that are not out-of-pocket expenses. These types of medical negligence compensation include physical pain and suffering and emotional pain and suffering. Physical pain and suffering may include suffering due to the inability to be mobile due to clinical negligence or constant pain. Emotional pain and suffering could include the emotional strain due to a shorter life expectancy resulting from clinical negligence or clinical depression resulting from that negligence.
ARE THERE LIMITS ON THE AMOUNT THAT CAN BE RECOVERED?
You have probably hear of the term “tort reform” in the past. Basically what this term refers to is the ongoing dispute between medical professionals, insurance companies and attorneys over a cap that a plaintiff in a clinical negligence action can recover in non-economic damages. It has often occurred that when a particularly damaging result has occurred from clinical negligence a jury will award an astronomical damage award to a plaintiff. This has led to increased insurance premiums that medical professionals have been required to pay. Some states have enacted laws which require such a cap. In Florida, for example, The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act has limited recovery for non-economic damages to $250,000. In 2003 George W. Bush endorsed legislation that would put a national cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages associated with clinical negligence. Although it is not law it is very common for a judge to take a jury award that he/she deems excessive and reduce the amount to a figure that is more suitable.