Medical Malpractice FAQ

What kinds of damages (money awards) are available to the plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit?

For patients who have suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, three kinds of damages are usually available through a lawsuit:

  • General damages. This is compensation for the suffering caused by the malpractice -- things like physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
  • Special damages. These are the more quantifiable expenses linked to the malpractice. Special damages include medical bills and reimbursement for lost income due to time missed at work.
  • Punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish a physician or medical facility for conduct that is seriously egregious (where a patient was intentionally harmed, for example). Punitive damages are rare in medical malpractice cases.

If a patient died as a result of medical malpractice, the patient's heirs may recover for 1) damages that occurred from the time of the malpractice up until the patient's death, and 2) the family's future economic loss due to the patient's death. To learn more about damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, see Nolo's article Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases.

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