Law Office of Ralph C. Petty

What Damages Are Available In A Medical Malpractice Claim?


There are several categories of damages in a medical malpractice case. They are broken down generally into three categories. The first is economic damages; which generally are the costs of the procedure, the cost of future medical treatment, the cost of maintaining healthcare for the injured plaintiff, and the cost of future surgeries. Those are all economic expenses or out-of-pocket expenses. There are also general damages, which are more psychological injury, loss of enjoyment of life, and the loss of the ability to maintain a profession or go forward and participate in the everyday activities of life. The third category is a family injury. It’s called the Loss of Consortium. That means that an injury to a spouse, for example, can cause a marriage relationship to deteriorate, because that injury has changed the way that the two parties conduct partnership of marriage. In such a scenario, having a seasoned Medical Malpractice attorney by your side can help you in claiming the rightful amount against the very damages concerned.

The most obvious is if there is an injury that prevents sexual relations between a marital couple, which can change the type of a relationship that a married couple might have and over the years. The same is true for children, for example, who lose a mother or father, or if their parent is injured to the extent that all of the focus and resources of the family have to be focused on that one individual. The rest of the family may be nearly excluded, left out, and ignored for years at a time, and the injury may be destroying the entire family relationship.

Let’s return to the second category, which is the general damages: Loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of the ability to pursue one’s profession or hobbies or enjoyment. That kind of damage, along with the loss of consortium, is very difficult to quantify. Economic damages are far easier to quantify because you have experts there testifying about what the future medical expenses are going to be, what it is going to cost to maintain this individual in their home with specialized transportation, or with a full-time healthcare nurse, CAN, or healthcare provider in the home for 12 hours a day, sometimes 24 hours a day. We can quantify those types of injuries and damages. But for the loss of enjoyment of life, for the loss of a relationship with your family, those are very difficult to quantify. The jury has to give its best estimate as to a value of what would fairly compensate that injured victim. That’s very difficult. But it can be done—juries do it, and it’s just a different type of damage.

Are There Caps In Utah For A Medical Malpractice Award?

There are caps for the general damages in Utah. Statutorily they are $250,000, but the statute gives the cost of living or every year, for the inflationary pressures that push on those damages. The cap for non-economic damages, or what we call general damages, is about $450,000 now. The juries are limited, and they can give whatever value they think is appropriate for the loss of consortium or for the loss of enjoyment of life. But that is then statutorily reduced by the judge to $450,000 or the calculated rates of increase of the cost of living since the $250,000 statutory provision was enacted and now has increased through the inflationary pressure. The economic damages are unlimited because they are quantifiable, and they are necessary for an individual to have that compensation in order to be able to maintain life and not become a ward of the state.

The real risk in these cases is that if the actual compensation sufficient to provide for the life of care and treatment that the plaintiff needs is not provided by the jury, then that individual and the society runs a risk that that plaintiff becomes a ward of the state, and has to be maintained through state funds. This is expensive and problematic, because the states and the populous at large should not be responsible for the error or the damage in the injury. Nevertheless, because of these types of caps and because of the system making it so difficult for plaintiffs to get to a verdict and get to a court to have a jury hear their case, there are many individuals at both extremes of that spectrum who aren’t injured badly enough to justify the risk of a medical malpractice case.

Many times, they become wards of the state, or have to live on welfare and be subsidized through Medicare and Medicaid through the rest of their lives. People that are very seriously injured are oftentimes not awarded enough economic damages to compensate them for the lifetime of care and dysfunction that they will lead. If the jury doesn’t fulfill its obligation, or the jury is confused or misled by the defendants, then those plaintiffs can very easily, because of their precarious financial condition, become wards of the state, meaning welfare and other subsidies to try to keep them maintained in the basics of life.

For more information on Damages In A Medical Malpractice Claim, a free initial consultation with Medical Malpractice attorney is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 783-1111 today.

Ralph C. Petty, ESQ.

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(801) 783-1111

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