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Three Types of Damages Awarded in Medical Malpractice Claims

Updated August 23, 2020 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

In medical malpractice cases—as well as in other types of personal injury lawsuits—damages is a term referring to compensation.

Regardless of the damages a victim suffers, the amount of money awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit is capped in several states. For example, beginning 2017, the medical malpractice damage cap in Indiana was raised from $1.25 million to $1.65 million. Then, in 2019, the cap was raised again to $1.8 million.

There are three types of damages recoverable from medical malpractice lawsuits: general damages, special damages, and punitive damages. Additionally, damages are categorized by economic and non-economic. 

General Damages

General damages are non-economic. They boil down to putting a price tag on an otherwise subjective injury and can include the following:

  • Loss of enjoyment or a lower quality of life
  • Loss of companionship from friends or loved ones
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Emotional and mental pain and suffering

Assigning a dollar amount to someone’s mental anguish, for example, is difficult. Even in similar situations, awards vary greatly between cases; for example, two victims with similar injuries could have wildly different after-effects. Given the uniqueness of each case, outcomes can be unpredictable.

Special Damages

Special damages are economic: They’re objective, quantifiable, out-of-pocket expenses incurred from the malpractice, such as the following:

  • Past, future, or current loss of wages
  • Current and future medical costs
  • Mobility and transportation equipment, such as wheelchairs
  • Home or facility-based care expenses

Any special damages awarded to the injured party are measurable and calculated by specific documentation that proves financial losses. To successfully move forward with your case, something as simple as a written letter from an employer or supervisor stating your name, position, rate of pay, etc. should suffice.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are neither non-economic or economic, because they aren’t about conjuring any sort of compensation. The focus shifts from the plaintiff to the defendant, as it exists to reprimand the defendant. Punitive damages can only be sought if the malpractice was undeniably negligent or outrageous. Think of it as a way to benefit society.

While punitive damages serve as a punishment to the defendant, the plaintiff is still paid damage awards. So, on top of receiving compensation for general and special damages, the plaintiff receives an additional settlement. While punitive damages are possible, they are extremely rare.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

Navigating damages can get complicated. There are a lot of technicalities that can cloud your path toward receiving the compensation you need to move forward with your life.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An experienced Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyer at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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