Damages in DC Medical Malpractice Cases

Damages in DC medical malpractice cases are considered the past and future medical expenses. Past medical expenses are considered the overall cost of medical bills an injured individual was forced to endure due to another’s negligence. If you or a loved one have suffered from negligence from a health care professional or facility, contact a compassionate medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Common Malpractice Cases

If someone goes in for an arthroscopic knee surgery and the doctor hits that person’s popliteal artery. As a result of that error, the person must undergo three additional surgeries. The cost of the initial surgery, the arthroscopy is not considered a damage because the person planned that surgery. However, the three additional surgeries are considered past medical expenses. They are calculated as medical expenses resulting from the malpractice.

Any future medical expense is based on an expert testimony. Experts can testify that based on the person’s condition and the expert’s knowledge, it is their opinion to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the person will need more medical care in the future. That is proven through life care planners as well as medical testimony and the testimonies of vocational or rehabilitation experts. All of those experts can testify as to the cost of the future medical care and the need for future medical care.

Defining Lost Wages

Lost wages include past and future earnings. Past lost wages are calculated by using the wages the person made at the time of the accident. Using tax returns, the experts can extrapolate that information into what the person will make in the future. An economist can do this and testify as to how much money is needed in the future to compensate the person for their lost wages. A person has past wages, which are the funds lost from the time of malpractice up until the time of the verdict. Future wages are from the date of the verdict, up until the time a person is not going to earn money.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages in DC medical malpractice cases are meant to punish the offending party for their outrageous conduct and are paid to the plaintiff in addition to other damages. This is significant because if a person makes a claim for punitive damages, there is no insurance for that. When the conduct is criminal such as some kind of assault, the offended party is entitled to punitive damages. If a doctor is doing a surgery and leaves a surgical pad inside a person, the action is not egregious enough to warrant punitive damages.

Economic and Noneconomic Damages

Non-economic damages involve loss of enjoyment of life, loss in the ability to enjoy life, as well as physical and mental pain and suffering. It is difficult to put a value on noneconomic damages in DC medical malpractice cases. It is the joy of life and how a person’s joy in life was diminished as a result of the medical malpractice. That is a non-economic damage. The important thing to note about a noneconomic damage is that it is not taxable. A person does not pay any income taxes on noneconomic loss.

Economic damages include lost wages, medical care, and future medical care. When someone is injured as a result of malpractice to the extent that they can never work again, they are entitled to be compensated for lost wages in the present and future.

If someone makes $50,000 a year and they are 50 years old and can no longer work as a result of their injuries. Their work life is expected to be another 15 years. They should be entitled to $750,000 in lost wages. In addition, if the person needs $150,000 in medical care because of the negligence, they are entitled  to the future medical care. Economic damages are tangible and can be proven. Non-economic damages are more intangible and are more art than science.

Role of Noneconomic Damages

Maryland and Virginia both have caps on non-economic damages. However, there is no cap on damages in DC medical malpractice cases. For a lawyer particularly, it is an uncertain thing to determine how much money a person is entitled to in a medical malpractice case. If a person lost their leg, that person is entitled to a million dollars. It is art and it depends on the jury and how they relate to people.

Non-economic damages separate judges from juries because juries determine what they think is fair and reasonable under the circumstances and that could be different for each jury. The same case sent to two different juries would result in different numbers.

How can They be Applied in Malpractice Cases?

Punitive damages are rare but they are punishable with the intent to deter others from engaging in the reprehensible conduct. To be awarded punitive damages, a person must show something egregious took place. Examples of egregious behavior are when the doctor is on drugs or alcohol, or the doctor assaults a patient, physically or sexually. Another example would be if a doctor knew they left something inside a person and did not tell the person.