What Are Considered Damages in a Lawsuit?
Damages are the monetary awards granted to a plaintiff in a lawsuit. In a medical malpractice case, the damages make the injured patient whole to the extent possible. The calculation of damages involves determining what the plaintiff lost due to malpractice. This decision includes two components.
The first category is called special damages or sometimes economic damages. These can be calculated precisely.
The second category is noneconomic damages. They are not precisely measurable.
How Are Special Damages Calculated?
When calculating special damages, courts take into account three things.
Lost wages and lost or diminished earning capacity
Other financial losses
Lost Wages and Lost or Diminished Earning Capacity
When calculating lost wages and diminished earning capacity, the court must take into account that those losses may extend years into the future. The concept of present value is used to adjust for this fact. The current value is a financial term that determines the value of a future income stream if you received it all at once today. Because this is such a complex concept, the plaintiff’s lawyer hires an actuary or another type of economic specialist to give testimony on this calculation.
Even with expertise, lost earnings and earning capacity is difficult. Three specific situations can complicate this question.
If you are not working at the time of your injury, you can claim earnings from past jobs as evidence of your earning capacity. However, opposing counsel will likely argue against this point and state that you have no earning ability.
If you were planning to take another job for more money but were derailed by injury, you may claim the higher pay in your earnings capacity. You will need to provide some type of proof that you had the new job lined up.
If you are self-employed, you will need to produce tax returns and other business records to support your claim of lost earnings.
When calculating medical expenses, courts consider the bills you’ve already incurred but also the bills you are likely to accumulate in the future for ongoing care. Specialized experts called medical economists are often called to testify as to these damages.
Other Financial Losses
This category of damages can include any other type of financial damage sustained by the plaintiff concerning the injury.
How Are Non-economic Damages Calculated?
Non-economic damages include categories such as pain and suffering that are not easy to calculate. Here are a few tools courts may use to arrive at a figure for non-economic damages.
A multiplier is a figure that insurance companies use to arrive at a pain and suffering figure. The special damages figure is multiplied by the multiplier to get a working dollar figure.
While multipliers might give insurance companies something to work with, juries don’t get any of this information. Instead, they often consider other factors. The credibility of the parties on the stand, how likable the plaintiff is, how honest he or she is, and whether the plaintiff has a criminal record are all considered.
If you are involved in a case of medical malpractice, don’t take any chances. Contact an experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer in Deer Park, TX to walk you through every step of the process.
Thanks to John K. Zaid & Associates for their insight into medical malpractice and what damages you can claim.