Understandably, one of the questions that we get asked most often when we first meet with new clients is “what is my case worth?” The law divides personal injury awards into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. While the facts of each particular case dictate which types of damages can be recovered, the following is a broad discussion of some of the types of damages available.
Economic damages are those which are easily capable of being quantified. In short, they are actual, monetary losses that a plaintiff has suffered as the result of a medical mistake (or other personal injury). The most obvious example of economic damages is lost wages. When an injury renders a person unable to work when they were able to work before, they generally can make a lost wage claim. Such a claim analyzes what their average earnings were, determines what their work-life expectancy would have been (i.e., how many more years they would have worked had they not been killed or injured), and then determines what their average earnings would have been over that period of time (taking into consideration factors such as wage increases and inflation). Importantly, a plaintiff may only make a claim for the present value of future lost wages. For example, if it is determined that a person would have earned an additional $1 million over a period of years if they had been able to keep working, the defense does not need to pay them $1 million today to settle that claim. Rather, the defense need only pay an amount which, when invested at reasonable rates of return currently available in the market, will yield a total recovery in the future of approximately $1 million. Usually, plaintiffs’ lawyers employ an expert economist to make this determination.
Another example of economic damages that a plaintiff can claim in a medical malpractice lawsuit is the medical bills and other care expenses incurred as the result of the malpractice. One important thing to remember about making a claim for medical bills is that most health insurers include “subrogation” clauses in their policies. These provisions obligate you, as the insured, to repay to your insurance company some or all of the medical expenses that the company paid out on your behalf in the event that you recover such expenses from a liable third party.
Other types of economic damages include loss of financial support (e.g., children who depended on a parent’s income) and loss of household services (what it would cost to go out in the market and hire someone to do the things that the injured or deceased victim used to do around the house).
Non-economic damages are those which are not capable of being accurately quantified. Such damages may be recovered for, among other things, physical pain, emotional suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement or other nonpecuniary injury. Under Maryland law, non-economic damages are subject to caps (ceilings) and jury awards which exceed the applicable cap are reduced to fit within that maximum allowable award.
If you or someone you know was a victim of a medical mistake, call our experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorneys at 410-385-2225 to schedule a free consultation.