Damages in a Medical Malpractice Claim
When you are injured as a result of medical malpractice, you have clear rights under North Carolina law. This includes the right to financial compensation for economic and non-economic damages. In some cases, an error committed by a doctor or other healthcare provider is so egregious that patients also have the right to punitive damages. Parents whose children suffer harm and families who lose loved ones can seek these same damages as well.
Calculating damages in a medical malpractice claim is a daunting task. You need to know how much you can reasonably expect to recover so that you can make informed decisions throughout the process. These decisions revolve around key questions such as:
- Is it worth pursuing a medical malpractice claim?
- Should you consider a settlement offer?
- Should you take the provider and/or the insurance company to court?
These are all questions that require a clear understanding of your legal rights. A medical malpractice lawyer at the Whitley Law Firm can review your case for free and discuss the compensation you may be due.
3 Types of Damages in a North Carolina Medical Malpractice Claim
The types of damages recoverable in a North Carolina medical malpractice claim can be broken down into three categories: (i) economic, (ii) non-economic, and (iii) punitive.
1. Economic Damages for Medical Malpractice
Economic damages provide compensation for the direct financial costs of a doctor’s negligence. These include medical bills, prescription costs, and loss of income. Any other out-of-pocket costs stemming from the negligence of a healthcare provider (i.e., home modifications or the cost of hiring a caretaker) are compensable as well.
Crucially, North Carolina law allows patients and families to recover compensation for both current and future economic damages. If a medical error will impact your life for years to come, you are entitled to full compensation for all of the costs you are likely to incur.
This makes it critical to ensure that you have a clear understanding of your (or your loved one’s) prognosis and the financial impact involved. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will collect evidence and consult expert witnesses to calculate the full extent of these losses.
Unlike non-economic and punitive damages (discussed below), there is no cap on economic damages in medical malpractice cases. This means that patients and their families can recover full compensation for all of the financial costs they have incurred to date and are likely to incur in the future.
2. Non-Economic Damages for Medical Malpractice
Non-economic damages provide compensation for all of the non-financial costs of a medical professional’s negligence. Similar to economic damages, patients and families can recover present and future non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Some examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of companionship, consortium, services, and support
- Loss of society and enjoyment of life
Unlike economic damages, there is no way to simply add up or estimate non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case. Instead, non-economic damages are calculated based on the totality of the circumstances involved. The greater the effects of the medical negligence, the more non-economic damages the patient and/or the patient’s family will suffer.
In North Carolina, there is a cap on the amount patients and families can recover for non-economic damages. The state legislature originally set the cap at $500,000 in 2014, but it is adjusted every three years for inflation. Starting in 2020, the cap was revised to $562,338. As a result, even if the true value of non-economic damages in a medical malpractice claim far exceeds $562,338, this is the maximum amount the patient or family will be able to recover for these losses.
3. Punitive Damages for Medical Malpractice
Punitive damages differ from economic and non-economic damages in that they are not compensatory in nature. They are not intended to help make the patient or family whole, but rather to punish the liable party or parties (a doctor, a hospital, etc.) for egregious acts that are legally defined as “aggravating factors.”
For punitive damages to be awarded in a North Carolina medical malpractice case, there must be “clear and compelling evidence” of malice, fraud, or willful or wanton conduct on the part of the defendant(s). In North Carolina, punitive damages are capped at $250,000.
Medical malpractice claims are among the most challenging legal actions. The standard for proving negligence is high, and recovering fair compensation is virtually impossible without knowledgeable legal guidance and aggressive representation.
The Whitley Law Firm is proud to advocate on behalf of patients who have suffered harm due to the negligence of doctors, health institutions, and other healthcare providers. We know that every case is unique, which is why our team prioritizes one-on-one attention and pursuit of fair compensation given your specific damages.
Please contact the Whitley Law Firm by calling (919) 785-5000 today. Our medical malpractice lawyers serve clients throughout North Carolina from offices in Raleigh, Kinston, and New Bern. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help.