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What Damages are Available in a Medical Malpractice Case?

In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice is said to have occurred when a patient is injured by the negligent treatment provided by a healthcare professional that has deviated from generally accepted medical standards. Injuries resulting from medical malpractice can have severe and lasting consequences on health and lives. While it can be scary to confront the fact that those professionals we entrust with our health and best interests may sometimes provide substandard care, it does happen, and very real, very significant injuries do occur as a result. By bringing a medical malpractice claim, a patient who has suffered due to receiving negligent medical care can seek the recovery of some of that which has been lost. Damages in a medical malpractice claim, on the whole, seek to put the victim in a position that they would have occupied had the medical malpractice never occurred.

What Damages are Available in a Medical Malpractice Case?

The bulk of damages available in a medical malpractice claim is compensatory in nature. Compensatory damages, as the name suggests, are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the damages incurred as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Through compensatory damages, the legal system attempts to make the malpractice victim “whole” again by awarding the victim financial compensation for the losses they have sustained as a result of the medical malpractice.

Compensatory damages are divided into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those damages that are readily assigned monetary value. They are easily quantifiable as they are grounded by things such as medical bills and pay stubs, among other things. The economic losses of a medical malpractice victim will commonly include things like:

  • Medical expenses
  • The cost of future medical care
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitative costs
  • Lost wages 
  • Loss of future earning capacity.

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are a bit more nebulous. While just as real as economic damages, non-economic damages are the harms that are difficult to assign a number value to. Consider one of the most prominent non-economic damages: pain and suffering. How do you put a value on the pain and suffering a person has gone through? While courts employ a number of methods to try and reach a number, it is still rather uncertain whether any number could adequately reflect what a person has gone through after suffering from harm caused by medical malpractice.

It is important to note that there is no limit, or “cap,” on the amount of compensatory damages a plaintiff can recover in a Pennsylvania medical malpractice case. This is in contrast to many other states which do put caps on such damage awards. While Pennsylvania may not restrict compensatory damages in a medical malpractice case, there are, however, restrictions in place on punitive damages in such cases.

Punitive damages serve a different purpose than compensatory damages. Punitive damages look to punish a wrongdoer as opposed to compensating a victim. With this punishment, the court hopes to deter such wrongful behavior in the future. Generally speaking, punitive damages are only awarded in cases where there has been particularly egregious behavior on the part of the defendant. In Pennsylvania, punitive damages in a medical malpractice case cannot exceed 200% of the compensatory damage award.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

If you have suffered due to substandard medical care, do not delay in reaching out to the dedicated medical malpractice attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy. Contact us today.