It's understandable that you would want to know what your case is worth as soon as possible. You are probably unable to work, struggling under the strain of medical bills, and just plain tired of dealing with the day-to-day effects of your injury. While I can't tell you exactly how much compensation you could receive, there are ways to approximate the amount.
Types of Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
Damages is the legal term for the money paid to an injury victim after a successful lawsuit. There are different kinds of damages, but they all fall into one of three categories:
- Economic damages. These are the direct monetary losses suffered by a victim as a result of injury. Economic damages include all medical bills related to the incident, costs of ongoing medical care, lost wages, and the difference in a patient's ability to earn a living before and after the injury. Most states allow patients to recover the full amount of their economic losses.
- Non-economic damages. These damages, commonly known as pain and suffering damages, are intended to pay for the aspects of the injury that don't have a price tag. These damages attempt to provide compensation for mental anguish, lost enjoyment of life, and loss of the love and support of a spouse (consortium). There are no definite rules when it comes to calculating the dollar value of non-economic damages, but factors such as the duration and degree of physical suffering, witness testimony that supports the degree of suffering, and the patient's age may all be considered when estimating the amount.
- Punitive damages. While economic or non-economic damages are awarded to the patient for the losses they suffered, punitive damages are awarded solely to punish the at-fault party for reckless actions and to discourage similar behavior in the future.
States May Have Caps on Medical Malpractice Damages
State governments may place a limit on the amount of damages a patient can recover. In some cases, these caps apply to all damages combined, while others have a cap only on certain categories. For example, there could be a damage cap on your case if it's filed in:
- District of Columbia. There are no damage caps for medical malpractice in the District of Columbia. However, if the patient files a case against an agent of the federal government, no punitive damages can be awarded.
- Maryland. Maryland caps non-economic damages in malpractice claims at $845,000 on lawsuits filed in 2021, an amount that increases by $15,000 each year. If there are two or more claimants in a medical malpractice wrongful death case, the total non-economic damages cannot exceed 125% of that year's cap—no matter how many claimants, plaintiffs, beneficiaries, or defendants are involved in the case.
- Virginia. Virginia imposes a strict damage cap that applies to all types of damages—economic, pain and suffering, and punitive. As of June 30, 2021, the total amount a patient may receive in a medical malpractice case is $2.5 million. This amount increases each year by $50,000 until it reaches a maximum of $3 million in 2031. In addition, Virginia limits punitive damages to $350,000.
Will I Get More If I Go to Trial?
You may have heard that you can get much more in your case if you go to trial. While it's true that jury verdicts often include more money for pain and suffering, there's a reason the vast majority of cases settle out of court. A settlement involves negotiations, giving you more control over the amount you receive. Even if you win your case in court, you might have the amount of damages reduced if you share fault. Finally, there's always a chance that you could lose the case and receive no compensation at all.
The best way to know how to proceed in your case is to speak with me as soon as possible. If you are suffering due to medical negligence, Kitchel Law, PLLC is ready to take over the fight on your behalf. Call 202-949-7109 today or fill out my short contact form to get the help you need.