Medical malpractice is typically associated with cases where doctors make mistakes treating their patients. The scope of medical malpractice, however, may include:
- Lack of treatment; and
- Other departure from accepted standards of safety, health care, or medical care on the part of a healthcare provider that results in harm to the patient.
Medical malpractice liability refers to which parties should be held legally responsible for injuries to patients. In general, this would include the party that breached their duty of care and was the actual cause of the injuries the patient suffered.
In terms of parties that may be held liable, medical malpractice claims may be brought against any medical provider that contributed to the injuries the patient suffered. Specific examples of entities that may be held liable for medical malpractice can include, but may not be limited to:
- A doctor may be held liable if their actions failed to meet the generally accepted standards of practice;
- The hospital may be held liable for providing improper care or inadequate training in terms of the healthcare professionals; and
- A nurse or other medical staff who attended to the patient may be held liable if they contributed to the patient’s injury.
A hospital may also be held liable for a patient’s injuries under the legal theory of respondeat superior. Under this legal theory, an employer may be held liable for the negligent actions of its employee if that employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time the negligence occurred.
An employer may be required to pay the injured party compensatory damages. In certain egregious cases of medical malpractice, punitive damages may also be awarded. Common examples of medical malpractice claims include:
What Are Medical Malpractice Damage Caps?
Medical malpractice damage caps are limitations that are placed on the amount of compensation that a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit. These damage caps are implemented to prevent individuals from filing frivolous lawsuits.
It is important to note there are differences between economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages, also called specific damages, are intended to compensate an injured party for their actual and measurable losses.
Specifically, in medical malpractice cases, this often includes:
- Hospital bills;
- Therapy costs for mental and emotional issues that came about as a result of the injury;
- The cost of medication; and
- Ambulance bills.
Non-economic damages, also called general damages, are not measurable in the same way. These damages cannot be calculated by adding bills and receipts.
Instead, these damages compensate for non-monetary losses, including:
- The injury itself;
- Emotional distress;
- Disability or disfigurement;
- Pain and suffering;
- Physical impairment;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss related to the plaintiff’s reputation; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Because this category of damages is subjective and may vary by case, they are subject to strict guidelines provided by each jurisdiction. There are some states that only allow non-economic damages to be awarded based on proof of economic damages with a specific formula used to calculate the proportion related to economic damages.
Previously, doctors and healthcare organizations have been targeted by individuals who are seeking to collect large amounts of money in medical malpractice cases. Therefore, in order to prevent the system from being abused, some states have placed caps, or limits, on damages amounts.
For example, Texas has a limit of $250,000 for medical malpractice damage awards in lawsuits against doctors and health care organizations. There are also some states that do not enforce any damages limitations.
Which States Have No Medical Malpractice Damages Caps?
As previously noted, there are some states that do not impose medical malpractice damages caps, including:
- Washington D.C.;
- New Hampshire;
- New York;
- Rhode Island;
- Washington; and
Certain state laws on damages may vary. For example, in Pennsylvania, although there is not a limit on medical malpractice damages, there is a limit on punitive damages.
In addition, this area of law can always change, as numerous states are considering bills that may change their policy on medical malpractice damages.
What Are Some of the Largest Medical Malpractice Settlements?
There have been numerous medical malpractice settlements. Some of the largest settlements in 2022 included:
- A $111 million verdict in Thapa v. St. Cloud Orthopedic Associates, Minnesota;
- A $97.4 million verdict in Kromphardt v. Mercy Hospital, Iowa; and
- A $77 million verdict in The Estate of Nicholas Carusillo v. Metro Atlanta Recovery Residences, Inc., Georgia.
What if I Need to File for Medical Malpractice?
Filing for medical malpractice can be very complex. An individual can benefit from compiling any records, documents, and receipts that may be related to their claim.
These will likely be used as evidence to support any requests and claims that an individual makes during trial. In addition, an individual would benefit from consulting an attorney, as well as the experience of other professionals, including expert medical witnesses, will likely be necessary.
When an individual is filing a medical malpractice claim, they will have to prove that they were actually injured, that they suffered losses, and that those losses were caused by the defendant.
If an individual cannot show an actual injury, they will not likely be able to recover damages.
What Else Should I Know About Damages In Medical Malpractice Cases?
There are also additional legal factors aside from the individual’s injuries that may influence how a damages award is calculated in a medical malpractice claim. One example would be how a pre-existing medical condition may reduce the amount of damages that the plaintiff can recover.
Another example is patient negligence. If a patient failed to follow the instructions of their doctor, their damages award can be reduced.
In certain states, patient negligence may prohibit the plaintiff from recovering damages entirely. Every state has laws that state whether or not a personal representative may recover damages if medical malpractice results in the death of the patient.
These laws are referred to as survivor statutes. They allow a patient’s heirs or their estate to recover damages that occurred from the initial medical malpractice to the time of the patient’s death.
These damages typically include everything that other medical malpractice cases award as though the patient has survived and brought their own claim. The decedent’s estate or an heir may also bring a wrongful death claim for their future monetary loss.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Medical Malpractice Damages?
If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to medical malpractice laws in your state, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer. If you believe you have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure the statute of limitations does not run out and preclude you from recovery.
Your lawyer can help you bring a claim, represent you during the trial, and ensure you obtain compensation for your injuries and losses. In addition, your lawyer will represent you during any negotiations with the other side to ensure your rights are protected and you are not given a settlement that is too low.