How is the Value of Medical Malpractice
Claim Calculated?

How is the Value of Medical Malpractice Claim Calculated?
How Is the Value of Medical Malpractice Claim Calculated?
November 18th, 2020

Medical malpractice and negligence can have grave implications for victims and their families. In most of these cases, the victim is left disabled, severely hurt, or even dead. Under such circumstances, compensation undoubtedly helps the victim and their family with the losses. Although the compensation cannot undo the damages caused, it can definitely alleviate the financial harm caused by negligence and malpractice. There are a variety of factors that determine the value of a medical malpractice claim. These range from the state the victim resides in to the position a lawsuit is in. In 2018, the average compensation paid out for medical malpractice claims was US$348,065[1].

Factors That Determine the Value of a Medical Claim

Several factors impact the value of the compensation that you may recover during a settlement or trial. These include:

  • The severity of your or your loved one’s injury. The greater the severity of your injuries, the greater are the chances that you receive a larger compensation.
  • The state of the victim after the incident. The chances are that the compensation you receive will decrease if you make a full recovery.
  • The severity of your disability, if the malpractice resulted in any
  • Whether the incident hampered or became a hindrance to you returning to your workplace
  • The incident’s impact on your wage-earning capacity
  • The pain, suffering, and emotional distress you went through due to the malpractice

Damages Awarded in a Malpractice Claim

The types and value of the damages awarded in a malpractice claim decide the value of the compensation. The different types of damages awarded in a medical malpractice case are:

Economic Damages

Also known as special damages, these have a specific amount associated with them. These are easy to calculate and constitute the financial costs related to the medical malpractice incident. These include:

Past and Future Medical Bills

The most basic expenses and damages a victim incurs are the medical bills that pay to be treated for the injuries and conditions caused by the malpractice incident. You are entitled to both past and future medical bills that you incur while getting the injuries and conditions treated that were caused as an aftermath of the incident. Medical bills will serve as proof for past expenses incurred for the treatment of the injuries. However, you will need an expert physician to testify to recover future estimated bills that you will incur during treatment. Severe injuries that require lifetime care have led to victims being awarded compensation that goes up to seven figures.

Lost Wages and Earning Capacity

These refer to the wages you lost due or will lose due to not being able to work due to being injured in the medical malpractice incident. While lost wages are straightforward to calculate, evaluating lost earning capacity can be tricky. A financial concept known as present value is used to calculate future income. The concept is used to determine the value of future income that you will lose, keeping inflation in mind. This is a complex financial calculation, and usually, an economist is hired to do it and serve as an expert witness to testify in the court of law.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic or general damages are the ones that do not have a fixed dollar value associated with them. These are hard to calculate and are subjective in nature. These damages include:

Pain and Suffering

Medical Malpractice Claim Calculation

Assigning a dollar value to pain and suffering is difficult. Unlike medical bills, there are no charts or formulas that can be used to decide a value for the pain and distress a victim goes through. It is, however, divided into two categories:

  • Physical pain and suffering: This is the pain and suffering victims suffer from due to their physical injuries. It includes the pain and suffering you suffer from due to disfigurement, scarring, or permanency of injuries.
  • Mental pain and suffering: It includes the emotional distress and mental anguish a victim may suffer due to the injuries and damages they sustain. Significant mental suffering can cause a victim to lose appetite, lose interest in sex, suffer from mood swings and sleep disturbances. Severe mental pain and suffering could also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The jury decides the value for the pain and suffering.

Loss of Consortium

This refers to the impact medical malpractice and negligence have on the relationship between victims and their spouses. It is a blanket term used to describe the loss of companionship, sexual relations, and affection between the victim and their spouse. A jury or a judge decides the value of the loss.

Punitive Damages

Awarded rarely, punitive damages are intended to deter doctors and hospitals from repeating medical malpractice or negligence. You can recover punitive damages in addition to general and special damages if you can prove that a doctor or hospital caused harm knowingly and intentionally. For instance, a patient had two hernias that needed treatment. However, the doctor fixed only one to bring the patient back to the hospital. Patients that become a victim of such medical malpractices are awarded punitive damages. A judge or jury decides the value of punitive damages based on the severity of the actions of a doctor or a hospital. However, there are state and federal limits on the value of punitive damages that can be awarded. Usually, the limit of punitive damages cannot exceed several times the amount awarded as general and special damages.

Damages Caps

Some states have capped the amount that can be awarded for non-economic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The limit of the caps varies from state to state. In certain states, the cap limit is disregarded or very high in catastrophic damages or death cases. However, such caps have been recently struck down in several cases as they were viewed as unconstitutional restrictions that barred a victim’s legal right to a complete legal remedy.

Settlement Value vs. Trial Value

Your medical malpractice claim has two values depending on where the progress of your lawsuit stands. These two values are settlement value and trial value.

You recover a settlement value after your lawyer negotiates and reasonably settles a case with the at-fault party before entering a trial. The settlement value is considerably lower than the trial value as it is an amount negotiated and agreed upon by both parties involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Generally, settlements are a safe option as the victim avoids the risk of battling in a trial, losing, and walking away with nothing.

Trial value, on the other hand, is the exact value of damages you are entitled to. This is decided by a judge or a jury and involves reviewing your medical bills, interviewing experts, and scrutinizing whether your claim is eligible for you to be awarded punitive damages.

To sum it up, putting value on a medical malpractice claim involves scrutinizing many aspects. The best way to find out the worth of your medical malpractice claim is by hiring an attorney specializing in the field. With a medical malpractice attorney by your side, you will have a clear idea of the how, when, and what of filing and proceeding with a medical malpractice or negligence lawsuit.

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