Clients often ask me what kind of damages may be awarded in a medical malpractice case. The answer to that question is essentially two fold: Economic and Non-Economic.
Damages can be thought of in terms of hard numbers and soft numbers. Hard numbers are anything that can be documented easily. Whatever the number may be it is not subject to change, and there will not be a lot of argument about it. For example, a person who earns X number of dollars per hour, which translates to Y number per week and Z number per year. We just easily calculated their damages for that year by figuring out Z. There is no arguing about it if the person worked for that amount of time, and that is what the numbers add up to. That is an Economic Loss. Economic Loss also includes funeral expenses, medical expenses, and anything that is an identifiable numerical value. The laws will help to recover these Economic Losses. There are also past damages and future damages to consider.
Unfortunately, malpractice cases tend to arise from a person being seriously injury. A serious injury is often a permanent injury. If a permanent injury is being discussed, then the laws need to focus on the present time and into the future. How far into the future becomes a battle for the experts. If the person is permanently paralyzed, for example, then there will be no need to debate the longevity of the damages. If the person has lost certain things or they will require durable medical equipment such as a wheel chair, then that will not be up for debate.
Here is a mock scenario in regards to durable medical equipment. A wheelchair costs $5,000, for this scenario, and it will only last for 5 years before it needs to be replaced. If the person has a life expectancy of approximately 25 more years, and will need the wheelchair for the rest of his lifetime, they will need five wheelchairs. It does not end there. In five years a wheelchair may no longer cost $5,000. A wheelchair may cost $5,500. When it comes to these economic losses, depending on the case, one of the things were going to have to do is hire a medical economist to look at the needs of the patient plaintiff and identify what the cost will be going forward. To make sure that no cost is overlooked, we will often have to hire a vocational rehabilitation specialist, or another kind of specialist, to look at the injury that the patient has and determine what are the items that this person is will need going forward to take care of them for the rest of their life.
This type of plan is called the Life Care Plan. My firm and I have done many Life Care Plans for many seriously injured plaintiffs and brain damaged infants. It’s something that we are experienced with. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned in the process. We also consider the non-economic losses, which can be in some ways the most important. What is the non-economic loss? That is the pain and suffering. Unlike the hard numbers these are what I would call “soft numbers”. They are subject to debate and argument. It is difficult to quantify the value of pain. These numbers can be determined in various ways by a jury. It is crucial to have an attorney who understands how to look at and explain those things that are more ambiguous so that fair compensation can be had at the time of trial.
If you have a case where there’s a serious injury and you think that we might be able to help you, please give me a call.
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