The Types of Damages Available In An Alabama Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

The ultimate objective of an Alabama medical malpractice claim is for the victim to win damages. This is the name given to the various types of monetary compensation that successful plaintiffs are awarded in court. Damages fulfill different purposes, and every malpractice case varies with the nature and amount available to plaintiffs. Part of having experienced counsel is having a law firm that understands the laws that govern damages. If you were injured because of medical malpractice, let Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton explain your legal options.

Every damages amount depends on the facts of the case

Victims should understand, first and foremost, that every malpractice case will differ in the amount of damages potentially available. No two cases are alike in their factual circumstances. Therefore, no two cases are alike in terms of the possible damages the plaintiff may win. Two lawsuits with the same underlying cause (e.g. surgical instruments left inside a patient) will still vary in damages.

Although winning damages is the end goal of a malpractice lawsuit, the other aspects of a case must not be overlooked. A plaintiff, through his or her attorney, will still need to prove other elements to substantiate the amount of damages demanded. They include:

  • The applicable standard of care, arising generally from the doctor-patient relationship
  • A breach of the standard of care by some negligent act or omission
  • A causal link between the breach and the damages suffered

Failure to prevail on any of these points could subject your damages award to appeal. In turn, this means an appellate court could potentially reduce or eliminate your damages entirely. Retaining experienced counsel to advocate for you makes this far less likely.

Two broad categories of damages: economic and non-economic

In Alabama, a victim of medical malpractice can seek two types of damages against the liable party: economic and non-economic.

Economic damages are those which are quantifiable. These are financial losses the victim suffers which can readily be calculated. They include such damages as medical bills and lost income.

Non-economic damages are more subjective in nature. These are non-financial losses, the value of which is not easily quantifiable. Some examples are pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Another way of understanding damages

Besides the above, there is another way of organizing damages so victims can understand what kinds of compensation to seek. Medical malpractice damages can be categorized as one of the following:

Compensatory damages. These are designed to place the victim in the position he or she was in before the malpractice. In other words, compensatory damages restore the victim (as much as possible) to his or life prior to the doctor’s negligent actions. These are further broken down into the following categories:

  • Special damages. The economic damages mentioned above fall into this category. They cover financial losses resulting from the defendant’s actions.
  • General damages. These are the above-mentioned non-economic damages. General damages link the defendant’s actions with the victim’s injuries.
  • Punitive damages. As contrasted with compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant’s wrongful conduct. Moreover, they are designed to discourage others from engaging in such behavior. Punitive damages are not automatically available in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted in an especially egregious or malicious way.

It should be noted that by law, punitive damages are limited. They are capped at three times the compensatory damages award or $1.5 million, whichever is greater.

Fighting For the Rights of Alabama Medical Malpractice Victims

The job of a medical malpractice attorney is, first, to thoroughly investigate the malpractice incident. In doing so, the attorney determines the nature and amount of damages to demand. Alabama malpractice victims know they can count on Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton to stand up for them. Call us today to learn more.

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