Large California medical malpractice verdicts are in the news almost every day. In San Francisco, the family of a woman who died from sepsis after her doctor failed to manage her blood thinner was awarded more than a million dollars by a jury. In a recent case handled by this office, a jury returned a verdict of more than $11 million to the family of a permanently disabled boy who was two years old when doctors failed to diagnose a brain infection that developed from a fall in the woods.
In California, there are two primary types of damages that a person injured by medical malpractice can recover — economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages. These damages are for actual monetary losses suffered by the victim. They include past and future out-of-pocket costs for medical treatment, doctor and hospital visits, surgeries, physical therapy, and prescription drugs. Economic damages also include loss of wages and lost future earnings. These damages are generally unlimited, and victims are entitled to receive up to the amount actually paid to medical providers plus their current and projected loss of earnings.
Noneconomic damages. These damages include pain and suffering, trauma, depression, loss of the ability to perform activities, scarring, disfigurement, and other losses that are not financial or physical. In California, noneconomic damages are capped at $250,000 under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. However, the act does not limit a medical malpractice award for economic damages.
Victims of medical malpractice may also be entitled to an award of punitive damages in very limited circumstances. Punitive damages are awarded when a defendant’s behavior is found by clear and convincing evidence to be either intentional or in conscious disregard for the health and safety of the victim. This doesn’t happen very often in medical malpractice cases, because often the medical professional was simply negligent. The plaintiff’s attorney has to ask special permission from the court for the right to sue for punitive damages.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a medical malpractice suit, there are various avenues to financial recovery that may apply. To learn more about your options, it’s important to contact an experienced and skilled San Diego medical malpractice attorney right away.