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.
Several factors impact the value of the compensation that you may recover during a settlement or trial. These include:
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:
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:
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.
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 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:
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:
The jury decides the value for the pain and suffering.
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.
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.
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.
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.