Medical malpractice is the act of a medical professional committing medical negligence. This means that a medical provider violated their duty of care by providing substandard care. When someone like a doctor fails to provide a level of care that another, similarly situated medical professional would provide under the circumstances, and a patient suffers harm as a result, the patient may be able to seek compensation for the harm suffered through bringing a medical malpractice claim. The compensable harm suffered due to medical malpractice is referred to as a person’s “damages.”
Damage Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases
While there are a few different types of damages available in a medical malpractice claim, the bulk of damages in these types of cases will usually be compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are, as the name suggests, intended to compensate an injured party for the harm they have suffered. Compensatory damages are divided into economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those damages that are easier to calculate as they are based on things like bills, pay stubs, and other numerical records. Economic damages in a medical malpractice case may include:
- Medical expenses
- Cost of future medical care
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, can be quite difficult to calculate as they are largely subjective in nature, specific to the person who has experienced and sustained the damage. Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering as well as emotional distress.
While other states place caps, or limits, on the amount of recoverable compensatory damages in a medical malpractice case, Pennsylvania does not. Caps are put in place in an attempt to discourage plaintiffs from pursuing litigation against doctors and other medical professionals. It also, however, works to limit the available recovery of those who have sometimes been seriously injured due to medical malpractice. Fortunately, Pennsylvania allows a victim of medical negligence to pursue damages for the harm they have suffered in full.
There may not be a cap on compensatory damages in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases, but there is, however, a cap on punitive damages in such cases. Punitive damages are rare and reserved for the most egregious of cases. They are not intended to compensate the plaintiff but are instead intended to punish the perpetrator of medical negligence in the hopes that such conduct would be deterred by this consequence in the future.
Pennsylvania caps punitive damages in medical malpractice cases at 3 times the compensatory damages award. It is important to note that this cap can be circumvented. The plaintiff needs to be able to prove that the defendant was acting to intentionally cause harm. The intentional act as opposed to a negligent act will allow the plaintiff to get around the damage cap and there will be no limit to the amount of recoverable punitive damages.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys
You should be able to trust your treating medical professionals to provide you with quality care. If you have been harmed by substandard medical care, do not hesitate to reach out to the trusted medical malpractice attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy. Contact us today.