Medical malpractice is a serious type of negligence. Victims of medical malpractice may not only experience adverse physical effects, but they may also suffer acute psychological and emotional damages. When the courts find a physician or healthcare facility guilty of medical malpractice, the judge awards victims enough to cover a variety of damages. Compensation for medical malpractice cases can cover all of these damages and more depending on the circumstances of the incident. If medical malpractice results in wrongful death, the decedent’s family can recover damages.
General damages refer to compensation for the patient’s pain and suffering due to medical malpractice. A patient can prove medical malpractice with evidence that a physician’s negligence or carelessness caused his or her damages in some way. In this case, the courts strive to put a price tag on these damages. The costs of physical and mental pain and suffering, anguish, lost enjoyment of life, and lost future earning capacity are real damages to a victim that can be difficult to quantify. The courts award an exact amount for general damages on a case-by-case basis.
The plaintiff and witnesses (including expert witnesses, such as doctors) must testify about the consequences of a patient’s injury to help the courts assign a dollar value to these losses. The final amount will depend on the extent of injuries, the victim’s salary at the time of the accident, and the severity of the damages. If the patient is young and suffered long-term damages due to medical malpractice, the courts will use expert testimony to estimate the value of a lifetime of lost earning capacity. These calculations are complex and vary greatly depending on each unique case.
In many malpractice cases, a victim may only suffer general damages. For example, if a doctor mistakenly makes the diagnosis that a patient has terminal cancer, the patient may suffer serious mental and emotional harm but no physical injury. In this case, the patient could sue for general damages alone. If the news of terminal cancer caused a heart attack, on the other hand, the negligent doctor would likely also have to pay special damages to cover the medical costs of the heart attack as well as the emotional trauma.
While there is plenty of estimating, guesswork, and opinion involved in calculating general damages, the courts can look at hospital bills and missed work to determine the amount of special damage compensation. Special damages include any past and future medical costs the malpractice caused, including the costs of therapies, medical equipment, hospital stays, and the necessary lifestyle modifications due to a permanent disability. Submitting copies of medical bills is often enough to calculate special damages in a medical malpractice case.
In special circumstances, victims of medical malpractice may also be eligible to receive punitive damages. This is only the case if the physician intentionally caused harm to the patient. The court awards punitive damages as a sort of punishment for the guilty party as well as to set an example for others to prevent similar cases in the future.
Wrongful Death Damages
In the event of patient death due to medical malpractice, West Virginia has special damages for wrongful death. These include compensation for family members’ sorrow and mental anguish as well as the loss of the decedent’s companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice. This is especially true if the decedent has young children. The courts will often award compensation in the amount of lost wages and benefits the decedent would have earned or the inheritance he or she would have left behind. Compensation may also include money for the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses.
If you or somebody you love was the victim of medical malpractice in West Virginia, reach out to a compassionate and accomplished Charleston personal injury lawyer experienced in medical malpractice cases. He or she will be able provide you with a better understanding of your available legal options.