Types of Damages

Pain is a form of noneconomic damages

People who win a medical malpractice case may be awarded damages, or money, to compensate them for losses. There are three types of damages.

Non-economic damages are pain and suffering (mental and physical incurred during and after the event), future problems and crippling effects of an injury (loss of ability to perform various acts of daily living, diminished quality of life, shortening of life expectancy, mental anguish, or loss of companionship). Emotional damages include anxiety and emotional distress associated with injury. Fro example, a psychiatrist establishes a sexual relationship with a patient, whose underlying emotional problems worsen when the psychiatrist breaks off with her. This plaintiff claims emotional damages.

Special damages include medical expenses, lost income, and past, present and future losses due to injury. They compensate for lost earning capacity (the plaintiff is entitled to recover what he would have earned had he not been injured), vocational rehabilitation, and funeral expenses.

Punitive damages are assessed when there is intentional or grossly negligent misconduct. They are awarded to punish the defendants and are not covered by insurance policies. Punitive damages (are also called exemplary) where applicable are awarded to set a public example and prevent future misconduct. They may be awarded when the defendant acted in a malicious, violent, oppressive, fraudulent, wanton or reckless manner in causing injury to the plaintiff. This applies to gross negligence, fraud, bad faith and intentional tort cases. The purpose is to compensate or to provide restitution for a wrongdoing, to vindicate an injured party, to punish a wrongdoer and to deter future wrongful conduct. For example, they might be levied against a nursing home corporation that deliberately reduced staffing in order to increase profit.

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