Calculating Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

By Norman Younker on September 01, 2019


Gavel stethoscopeLegal damages are a monetary award sought by plaintiffs in a civil case to recover losses or to punish a negligent party. In medical malpractice lawsuits, these damages may be sought against doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, clinics, and other kinds of medical facilities. No matter who your case is against, the lawyers of Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC can help.

The team at our Salt Lake City, UT law firm would like to consider the kinds of damages in a medical malpractice case. We’ll note how they’re typically calculated and how they compare to the amounts of pre-trial settlements.

Types of Legal Damages

There are two kinds of legal damages:

  • Compensatory Damages - Compensatory damages are damages that cover financial losses associated with an act of medical negligence. This might include the cost of additional medical care, lost wages, lost earning potential, and emotional pain and suffering. In the case of medical mistakes that cause the death of a loved one, compensatory damages will also cover funerary expenses and the loss of companionship.
  • Punitive Damages - Punitive damages are damages that punish the negligent medical professional and are not linked to any actual material losses a plaintiff experienced.

We should note that it is not uncommon to seek both compensatory and punitive damages in a medical malpractice case. Our Salt Lake City attorneys have done so in particularly egregious cases of healthcare negligence.

Calculating Compensatory Damages

Calculating compensatory damages is a generally straightforward process. Clients will be asked to add up all bills, receipts, invoices, and so forth associated with the death of a loved one. Paystubs can be consulted to determine future earnings, as can the cost of further therapy and counseling sessions to deal with the emotional fallout of a medical mistake or the loss of a loved one.

If you are unsure if an expense would be covered by compensatory damages, you can consult with your attorney. They’ll be able to let you know for sure based on the nature of the incident and what issues you’ve faced as a direct result.

Calculating Punitive Damages

Since punitive damages are not linked to actual material losses, they are calculated in a much different way. Generally, the amount awarded in punitive damages is determined by the egregiousness of the case and its similarity to other cases. The amount can vary based on what occurred, particularly if the medical error resulted in the loss of life or caused a drastic change in a person’s overall quality of life.

Are Pre-Trial Settlements Comparable to Damages?

Not always, but proper negotiation can increase the settlement amount so that it is comparable with damages in a medical malpractice trial.

The lawyers at our firm will let you know if you should take the proposed settlement or if you can potentially angle for a much more reasonable settlement amount. Keep in mind that most civil cases are settled before going to court, so having a skilled attorney on your side to negotiate a better settlement is essential.

Contact Our Law Firm

For more information about damages and settlements, contact a skilled medical malpractice attorney. The team at Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC is here to help. You can reach us in Salt Lake City by phone at (801) 335-7025.

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