Just as there are no two snowflakes that are alike, no two victims of medical malpractice suffer from the same exact harm and experience the pain of these injuries in the same manner. This is because each person comes into the unwanted and undeserved experience with unique health conditions, standards of living, careers, recreational pursuits, and even pain tolerances. The impact of medical malpractice, therefore, varies tremendously. Damages awarded in recognition of pain and suffering are intended to take all of these unique factors into account.
Measuring Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering encompasses several different types of harm, including physical harm, that is demonstrated through actual physical injuries that impede a person’s quality of life, as well as emotional pain and suffering, which may be demonstrated through the devastation of a person who cannot participate in the activities that he used to enjoy or an inability to interact with his family in the same manner after the medical malpractice.
A person who suffers from physical injury may not be able to carry out tasks that he or she used to perform before the preventable mistake of the doctor or other medical professional. Physical injuries also may include permanent scarring or disfigurement. This type of injury manifests itself in some type of physical limitation of quantifiable harm. This is distinguished in the award of damages from non-economic harm relating to emotional distress or mental suffering. In many states, there is a cap on no-economic damages.
Non-physical injuries may include the mental suffering that comes from knowing that a person never will enjoy the same regular activities in the same manner. For example, a dedicated marathon runner who was injured as the result of medical malpractice when a doctor failed to treat a blood clot that led to the removal of the individual’s leg may suffer acute emotional suffering based on the fact that he no longer can participate in the activity that he loved so much. In addition, he may not be able to provide the same support to his family that he once did, resulting in emotional pain. Medical malpractice damages are intended to compensate these non-economic damages that resulted from a healthcare provider’s negligence.
This non-economic harm also may lead to physical consequences, which include:
- Loss of sleep;
- Extreme anger;
- Weight loss;
- Loss of sexual desire; and
- Acute stress.
Determining the Award of Damages in a Settlement or a Trial Verdict
There is no easy manner in which to calculate damages, nor any accepted formula that applies in every case. There are documents that have been prepared by experts who calculate various types of harm and the economic impacts that these injuries have on the victims, as well as their families and loved ones. Many times, the award of damages in a trial with a jury comes down to determining what is fair considering a totality of the circumstances. There is assistance from a medical expert who provides testimony about the impact of the harm. Despite the input from the expert, the loose guidelines often lead to very different damages awards for individuals who have suffered from very similar harm.
In certain states, there is a formula in place to determine non-economic damages based on a multiple of the amount of economic damages that were assessed. These economic damages are based on medical bills, the cost of ongoing medical treatment, lost wages, costs for incorporating accommodations in the home and personal vehicles, and miscellaneous expenses relating to the additional costs that were incurred as a direct result of the injury.
Intangible Factors that Influence a Damages Award
Although there are many different things that are considered in awarding monetary damages to a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case, certain intangible factors may have the greatest influence. These include the believability of the plaintiff when he or she testifies about the trauma that was endured after the injury. The jury also may look at how consistent the plaintiff was in portraying how his or her life has changed since the preventable medical mistake. Many times, the defense will attempt to discredit the plaintiff by introducing different medical records where the person has described the nature of the pain differently when discussing it on different days or with different medical professionals. However, there are many injuries that do lead to different types of suffering on different days and as long as the plaintiff is clear in describing these purported disparities, the jury still may award a large amount of damages.
Stern Law, PLLC Fights to Get Clients the Damages They Deserve
People who have suffered from medical malpractice often desperately need the compensation that is awarded through a settlement or jury award in order to pay bills and obtain crucial medical care. These individuals also need to support their families. Being able to demonstrate the extent of impact of the harm is one of the most important aspects of the medical malpractice case. At Stern Law, PLLC, our attorney has more than 30 years of experience in building strong cases to get our clients the results that they deserve. In addition, we offer resources for anyone who may have questions or concerns about medical malpractice, with compassionate and committed staff available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.