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Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

If you have suffered an injury or damages because a health care provider didn't propely diagnose or treat a serious health condition, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Contact Beale, Micheaels, Slack & Shughart in Phoenix, Arizona.


Compensatory damages

Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the actual injury and harm due to negligence on the part of a medical professional.   Compensatory damages are usually divided into two categories, damages for economic loss, or “actual” damages and non-economic loss or “general” damages.  Economic losses can include out-of-pocket expenses, such as doctor and hospital bills, prescription drugs, nursing care or assistance with daily living activities, physical and occupational therapy and equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs.   If the injury caused you to miss work while you were recovering, your lost wages may be recoverable as compensatory damages.

Non-economic losses are more difficult to quantify because they are difficult to put a monetary value on.  They include pain and suffering, permanent disability, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of consortium or companionship, physical impairment or disfigurement. It may also be possible for the plaintiff to recover damages for future lost wages and future medical treatment or therapy if they are caused by the negligence of a medical professional. A plaintiff may also be able to recover damages for the loss of the chance to obtain a better outcome in the surgery or medical procedure because of the doctor or hospital's negligence in treating the plaintiff.

Punitive damages

If the evidence shows that the doctor, nurse or other health care provider acted willfully, wantonly, maliciously, fraudulently, with bad faith or with a conscious indifference to the potential consequences of their acts, the plaintiff may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages, which are sometimes referred to as exemplary damages, serve to punish the health care provider for his or her wrongdoing so that similar future misconduct  may be prevented.   Negligence alone is not sufficient to impose punitive damages on a health care professional.

There are a number of situations in which it may be possible for a plaintiff to recover punitive damages from an individual health care provider. Courts have awarded punitive damages in the following situations:

  • Misrepresentation or fraud regarding surgery
  • Altering medical records
  • Treating a patient while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Failure of a surgeon to obtain the patient's informed consent to the surgery
  • Failure to properly perform surgery or provide proper follow-up care after surgery
  • Failure to properly administer drugs or anesthesia
  • Failure to administer appropriate tests to ascertain the health of a child

Courts have considered a number of factors in support of a punitive damage award. These include performing non-emergency surgery after a long day, performing a particular procedure at a significantly higher than normal rate, performing a procedure when a more appropriate procedure (which could not be done by the defendant) is indicated, overcharging for services and continuing to use a particular treatment when it has had bad results in the past.

A plaintiff may also be able to recover punitive damages from a hospital, nursing home or clinic.  Courts have awarded punitive damages where a hospital or clinic is liable for the conduct of one of its employees; a hospital or other employer ratified or approved of the employee's conduct which warranted an award of punitive damages; a health care institution failed to ensure the competency of its employees or supervise its personnel; a hospital failed to provide adequate facilities, equipment or supplies; or an institution refused to disclose medical records or altered records.

Contact a medical malpractice lawyer

If you believe that you are entitled to recover damages, whether they be compensatory or punitive, you should contact an attorney who specializes in this type of law at Beale, Micheaels, Slack & Shughart P.C. in Phoenix, Arizona

DISCLAIMER: Any information on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not and should never be construed as legal advice.  Seek legal counsel to discuss your legal matter