There are two types of damages available in medical malpractice cases, compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are designed to, in a word, compensate. To the extent possible, these types of damages are meant to make the person as “whole” as possible. Generally, these damages can be broken up into two sub-categories, actual damages and general damages. Actual damages seek to reimburse a plaintiff for financial losses sustained. Actual damages typically include:
- Medical and hospitalization bills incurred to treat your injuries
- Wages lost due to work missed while you recuperate
- Costs of household or nursing help during recovery, including costs of wheelchair or crutches required
Malpractice victims can also sue for general damages in addition to actual damages. General damages include the things that can’t be precisely documented in dollars spent, including
- Pain and suffering endured due to injuries and any subsequent mental anguish
- Value of medical expenses you are likely to incur in the future
- Value of wages you are likely to lose in the future
- Loss of consortium (benefits of a relationship)
- Loss of normal life
Damages are also available in cases where the plaintiff is able to prove that he or she was not provided with proper informed consent.
Punitive damages may be awarded in certain cases. Punitive damages are not based on actual injuries sustained. Rather, they are a way to punish the defendant for intentional or grossly negligent conduct. It is fairly uncommon to see punitive damages in a medical malpractice case. However, it is not unprecedented.