Can You Sue a Doctor for Pain and Suffering?

Posted in Medical Malpractice on November 30, 2018

If a medical professional harms a patient due to negligence or a failure to meet the appropriate standard of care for the patient’s condition, that professional commits medical malpractice and will likely absorb liability for the patient’s damages. There are many types of damages potentially available to a plaintiff in a medical malpractice claim. Anyone who expects to file a medical malpractice lawsuit should know the factors that may complicate the case and the types of compensation that may be available. Continue reading to learn more or consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia.

Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages

There are generally two types of damages available to plaintiffs in most civil claims, including medical malpractice lawsuits: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages repay the financial losses resulting from a defendant’s negligence. These often include hospital bills, transportation costs, lost income, and property damage. Any losses that a plaintiff can quantify with monetary figures qualify as economic damages.

Non-economic damages are more complicated. These damages pertain to a claimant’s pain and suffering, and it is difficult to assign monetary values to these intangible concepts. However, the justice system recognizes that the pain and trauma associated with a damaging event are often worse for victims than the economic fallout and allows them to receive compensation accordingly. In medical malpractice lawsuits, pain and suffering damages are often some of the most substantial forms of compensation a plaintiff can receive.

Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages

Different courts use different systems to decide on appropriate amounts of pain and suffering compensation. The nature of the victim’s injuries and recovery may also come into play. A court may decide to award a lump sum if the victim’s injuries show little sign of causing long-term complications. For example, the jury may multiply the victim’s claimed medical expenses of $20,000 by three to reflect the physical pain associated with the injury.

Another plaintiff may receive “per diem” compensation for every day he or she spends in recovery until he or she reaches maximum medical improvement. This is more common for cases involving long-term medical conditions resulting from negligence.

Pennsylvania law places no cap or limit on the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff can receive from a medical malpractice lawsuit. Several factors can influence a jury’s decision on pain and suffering damages including the victim’s credibility, sincerity, and conduct in court. Physical evidence will also come into play.

Expert Witnesses

Pain is purely subjective; pain that is intense to one person may be minor to someone else. Therefore, the jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit needs a way to understand the plaintiff’s experiences and the full scope of effects of the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff’s attorney will likely consult with expert witnesses who have experience in relevant medical fields. These experts may then testify as to the patient’s experiences and help the jury understand the full scope of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering from a professional and neutral third party.

For example, a plaintiff claims that a defendant’s medical malpractice resulted in $20,000 worth of medical expenses for corrective treatment, significant pain during recovery, and nightmares and psychological distress due to the pain and uncertainty of the situation. An expert witness confirms that the plaintiff’s description falls in line with similar reports from patients who suffered the same type of injury. This bolsters the plaintiff’s credibility in the eyes of the jury and can lead to more compensation than the plaintiff originally expected.

It’s important to work quickly to address a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania. The statute of limitations is two years, starting on the date the malpractice occurred. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help a client gather the evidence necessary for a strong case, consult with expert witnesses and secure their testimonies, and explore all additional avenues of compensation that may be open to the plaintiff.