What Compensation is Recoverable in a Medical Malpractice Case?
Published on November 22, 2023
Medical malpractice is one of the most egregious personal injury claims in Arizona courts. We hold our medical providers to high standards and trust them to prioritize our health and safety above all else. When a doctor or other provider commits negligence or makes a medical mistake, they breach the special duty of care they have toward their patients. When provider negligence causes serious harm to a patient, the patient shouldn’t be left responsible for the damages. In a medical malpractice case, “damages” refers to both the economic and non-economic consequences of the injury caused by malpractice. A successful medical malpractice claim helps injured victims recover compensation for their damages.
What’s the Difference Between Economic and Non-Economic Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case?
When someone suffers a preventable injury caused by another party’s actions or negligence—including in medical malpractice cases— they may experience a wide range of negative consequences. These consequences are their “damages” in civil court. While criminal courts focus on punishing a wrongdoer, the civil court system exists to right a wrong done by one party to another through financial compensation. In personal injury cases—including medical malpractice claims—there are two types of damages:
Economic damages are the tangible costs of an injury and are easily calculated through receipts, bills, and financial documents
Non-economic damages are intangible consequences to an injury victim, such as their pain and the suffering or the emotional anguish they experience
Non-economic damages like an injury victim’s pain may be more difficult to assess and assign a monetary amount, but they are almost always the most harmful and consequential impacts of an injury. Even though financial compensation for these intangible damages cannot erase pain and suffering, it is the only means of redress available in a civil court. Recovering compensation for non-economic damages significantly increases the amount of compensation a victim recovers and also helps them to achieve a sense of justice.
What Damages are Available in a Medical Malpractice Claim?
All injury cases are unique, including injuries caused by a medical professional’s negligence or medical error. The damages available vary depending on the nature and severity of the injury; however, victims of medical malpractice commonly claim the following damages for compensation:
Future medical expenses for corrective care, home health care, medical equipment, or ongoing treatment for the injury
Reimbursement for lost income
Future income loss
Diminished earning capacity due to an injury that caused disability or impairment
Loss of enjoyment of life
Loss of consortium (the full physical, emotional, and supportive relationship with another)
Trauma, PTSD, anxiety, or depression
In some cases, special non-economic damages arise in malpractice claims such as disfigurement compensation or compensation for limb loss or organ loss.
If a loved one dies due to medical malpractice, their close family members may file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for damages including funeral expenses as well as income loss and other economic damages. Wrongful death claims from medical malpractice also allow compensation for non-economic damages like grief and anguish. In cases of egregious malpractice resulting in a wrongful death, the court may also award punitive damages. This is an amount of money meant to serve as a punishment and deterrent to the wrongdoer.
What Do I Have to Prove in Order to Recover Compensation for Medical Malpractice Damages?
Medical malpractice is a specialized area of personal injury law. It takes a skilled medical malpractice attorney with a strong medical background and/or resources within the medical community to investigate all aspects of the injury, identify the liable party, and document evidence of their liability as well as your damages to send to the medical malpractice insurance company of the party at fault. Evidence of liability in a medical malpractice claim must demonstrate the following legal points of liability:
A doctor/patient relationship was in place at the time the malpractice occurred (if an unfamiliar doctor gives you bad advice while riding next to you on the subway, no doctor/patient relationship existed so you cannot sue them for malpractice)
The provider had a duty to treat you at the standard of care accepted by the medical community or the way another reasonable doctor would have treated you under the same circumstances
They breached this duty of care by acting negligently
Their negligent breach of duty directly caused your injury
You’ve suffered significant economic and non-economic damages due to the injury.
Liability for medical malpractice could lie with the individual provider if they were an independent contractor at the facility. Otherwise, the hospital or medical facility itself may be the liable party if the doctor was an employee, or if they were negligent in their hiring practices, training procedures, safety protocols, or administrative and communication practices.
Who Pays the Damages in a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Only very rarely does the at-fault doctor or provider pay malpractice compensation to a victim out of their personal funds. Doctors carry medical malpractice insurance to protect themselves from personal liability. Once an attorney determines the liable party in a medical malpractice claim, they’ll identify the correct malpractice insurance carrier and send an evidence-backed demand package to the insurer to make a claim for your compensation. This package also includes a calculated amount for every damage you can claim, including for pain and suffering. Phoenix medical malpractice attorneys commonly use formulas based on the victim’s medical expenses to determine how much pain they’ve endured. They may also consult with medical experts about the victim’s pain level and the amount of pain they’re likely to endure until reaching their maximum physical recovery.
Do I Have to Go to Court For My Medical Malpractice Claim?
The vast majority of medical malpractice claims settle out of court through a skilled attorney’s negotiations on the client’s behalf with the malpractice insurance company. Only in cases of an insurance company’s failure to offer an acceptable amount of compensation or wrongfully denying a claim does the cause proceed to court within the state’s statute of limitations. Most states allow up to two years for personal injury claims, including malpractice.
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