According to the Medical Malpractice Report by the National Practitioner Data Bank, $348,065 was the average payout for medical malpractice claims in 2018, and plaintiffs received more than $4 billion in malpractice lawsuits collectively. 96.5 percent of the payouts resulted from settlements, while 3.5 percent resulted from court judgments.
The Most Common Complaints in Medical Malpractice Claims
The report also found that medical errors relating to diagnoses consisted of 34.1 percent of medical malpractice actions, which makes it the most common claim. While malpractice related to surgical procedures accounted for 21.4 percent of claims and malpractice associated with improper treatment accounted for 21.1 percent of all claims.
The statistics are consistent with the researchers’ past findings since one study about the medical malpractice lawsuit rates in the U.S. from 1992 to 2014 likewise found that surgical mistakes, treatment-related errors, and misdiagnoses are the top causes of claims.
As for damages, 12.3 percent of claims resulted in quadriplegia, brain damage, and other injuries requiring lifelong care, 18.7 percent resulted from catastrophic permanent injuries, and 29.7 percent resulted in fatalities. Additionally, the average payouts for claims that resulted in death, which is approximately $380,300, weren’t as high as claims resulting in brain damage, which earned payouts of up to $960,000.
How Much Is My Medical Malpractice Claim Worth?
If you believe that you have a valid claim, you are probably wondering about the potential value of your claim.
Lawyers typically categorize damages as:
- Economic or special damages, which are based on calculable financial losses.
- Non-economic, general, or pain and suffering damages, which are not clearly calculable or based on bills or expenses.
In some cases, patients may also pursue punitive damages if the doctor’s actions were malicious or intentional or the doctor should’ve known or knew that their actions would cause injury.
To be awarded damages through a malpractice claim, you must prove the actual malpractice that occurred, such that:
- The doctor’s negligent actions resulted in your damages
- You cannot resolve the damages resulting from the malpractice by any other means
- Your injuries didn’t exist before the malpractice incident
Determining Your Special Damages
- Lost earnings
- Medical expenses
- Loss of earning capacity
- Other quantifiable financial losses
Your medical expenses include all the bills that you have incurred due to your injuries and can include the cost you would reasonably incur if you require future medical treatment. Future medical bills are usually high in malpractice cases.
Your lost earnings and loss of earning capacity are earnings that you have lost or stand to lose due to the malpractice incident that led to your injuries. This includes employment benefits you lost, such as paid leaves, health insurance, and pension contributions, etc. Calculating your past lost wages is easy because you just add all the earnings and benefits you missed because of your injury.
On the other hand, calculating your future lost earnings and earning capacity will be more difficult. For this reason, your lawyer will need to enlist the help of a financial expert to accurately present these numbers in a way that the jury will understand. For example, let’s say that you were earning $50,000 yearly before the medical malpractice incident. However, you did not recover fully and could presently return to work part-time and only earn $25,000 per year.
This means that your estimated lost earning capacity is $25,000 yearly for the rest of your life, or more accurately, work-life expectancy. Put simply, work-life expectancy is a measurement based on federal statistics of the number of years a worker likely would continue working, depending on that worker’s age, race, and sex, among other factors. This might seem easy to calculate, but it becomes more complicated when you try to calculate what $25,000 yearly could be worth in the future.
Determining Your General Damages
As previously stated, pain and suffering or general damages are not exactly easy to calculate. It’s just not possible for the jury to rely on a chart, for example, to see how much pain and suffering you experienced (or are still experiencing) because of your injuries. This is why judges typically instruct the jury to put themselves in the injured patient’s shoes and utilize their experience, background, and common sense when determining awards for pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering damages include both mental and physical pain and suffering, such as:
- The pain of your actual physical injuries
- The pain and suffering you’re experiencing from a permanent injury or disability, disfigurement, or scarring
- Mental suffering and pain, including emotional distress, mental anguish, anger, fear, humiliation, loss of life enjoyment, and/or sleep disorders, among others
- Loss of companionship or consortium
Mental pain and suffering can likewise include severe depression, extreme mood swings, aggressive anger, chronic fatigue, eating problems, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, and PTSD.
Never shortchange yourself when it comes to intangible losses, as these are often a significant part of a medical malpractice settlement or award. Discuss all of the effects you felt from your injuries with your lawyer so they can properly present the associated losses to the insurance company.
Seeking Legal Help from a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
A medical malpractice claim will require the legal guidance of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to prove why and how the malpractice occurred. Remember that the basis of all malpractice claims is whether the doctor deviated from the medical standard of care, and if yes, whether the doctor’s actions resulted in the patient’s injuries.
Likewise, while the doctor’s actions are dependent on the case’s particular circumstances, the primary issue when establishing whether the doctor’s actions were indeed negligent is whether another doctor under the similar or same conditions would’ve done what the doctor did.
Consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to learn more about your case and find out how your settlement might bring you. Never ignore your right to compensation from negligent doctors who caused you injuries.