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Medical Malpractice Cases: What Kinds of Damages Can Be Awarded?

In the context of any kind of medical malpractice lawsuit, there are generally two types of damages that can be claimed by the Plaintiff and/or ultimately awarded by a judge or jury: Non-Economic Damages and Economic Damages. Many times, our clients struggle with understanding the differences between these two types of damages and it is important to understand the distinction.

Economic damages are financial costs of an injured party’s trauma, including things such as past medical bills, future medical bills, future care costs and past and future wage/earnings loss. Future care costs, in particular, can often times range in the millions of dollars depending on the age of the injured party and the severity of the injuries suffered. For example, if a newborn infant has suffered a brain injury as the result of the negligence of an obstetrician, a medical expert known as a life care planner is often hired to project what types of care, equipment and services that child will require for the rest of their life, at each stage of their life. These types of damages include everything from the patient’s medications, motorized wheelchairs, physical/occupational/speech therapies, nursing care, in-home attendant care, etc. Other types of economic damages include the cost of modifying an injured party’s home to make it handicapped accessible for them or the provision of a modified van or car to allow them to operate it safely within the scope of their physical limitations. With respect to past or future loss of earnings/wages, once again, these damages can add up into the millions depending on the age of the plaintiff. In many instances, our office will retain an economist to examine what the injured party was earning prior to his/her injury and project those earnings forward to that individual’s reasonable work life expectancy (e.g., age 62, 65, 67 or 70). For individuals who are injured prior to the time that they enter the workforce, our economists are able to make projections as to their anticipated income based upon the education levels and work histories of their parents or guardians. There is no cap on economic damages.

Non-Economic damages, on the other hand, are designed to compensate an individual for less tangible losses related to the patient’s injury. In Maryland, this type of damage is generally referred to as the “pain and suffering” of the injured party. It is difficult to place a true number on this type of damage because often times the pain and suffering is immeasurable. Take for instance, someone who was injured through the fault of a health care provider and subsequently dies. Obviously, the pain and suffering they experienced is immeasurable as is the loss that the surviving family members (spouse, mother, father, children) have experienced. In Maryland, however, there are caps on non-economic damages. The current cap, for injuries occurring in 2015, stands at over $750,000 and legislation requires that it be raised each year by an additional $15,000. In the event of the death of an individual due to medical malpractice, certain family heirs are entitled to make a claim for the non-economic damages associated with the loss of their family member. This amount is also capped, but depends upon the number of beneficiaries that are bringing the claim.

In short, when making a claim for damages in a medical malpractice case in Maryland, our office will combine you or your family’s economic losses with the non-economic losses to reach a figure that we believe reflects the value of your case.

If you or a loved one are the victim of medical malpractice / medical error, call our offices at 410-385-2225 for a free consultation.

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