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Three Types of Damages Awarded in Medical Malpractice Claims

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Updated September 1, 2019 | Medical Malpractice |


In medical malpractice cases, damages is a term referring to compensation. There are three types of damages recoverable from medical malpractice: 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 another wise subjective injury, such as:

  • 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, the plaintiff could have wildly different after-effects. Given the uniqueness of each case as well as the judge and jury, outcomes can be unpredictable.

Special Damages

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

Examples of special damages include but are not limited to:

  • Past, future, or current loss of wages
  • Medical bills and expenses

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.

The amount of money awarded to the plaintiff is dependent on a jury or judge. If a jury or judge sees fit, a plaintiff could receive a multi-million dollar punitive damage award. Each state varies though; some have ceilings that regulate how much money a plaintiff can be awarded. For example, beginning 2017, the medical malpractice damage cap in Indiana will be raised from $1.25 million to $1.65 million. Then, come 2019, the cap will be raised again to $1.8 million.

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 Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers 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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