What is the importance of non-economic damages in med mal cases? P.1

In our last post, we mentioned a case which has been appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court involving the issue of whether a 2005 tort reform law bars non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases involving allegations of wrongful death. The case is certainly an important one since it will help define the extent of damages available to medical malpractice plaintiffs in these cases.

Non-economic damages, as we mentioned last time, can be an important means of compensating plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, particularly when economic damages do not adequately compensate the plaintiff, for one reason or another. This can certainly be true for an injured patient, but it can also be true for the surviving family members of a deceased patient.Â

For patients, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life are important to account for when the actual medical costs required to address any medical issues stemming from malpractice are not that significant. This might be the case, for example, when a limb has to be amputated. Compared to the medical costs associated with brain damage, an amputation will typically not be as costly.

Another factor is the impact of malpractice on the patient’s ability to make a living. In cases where the patient’s injury is intimately connected to his or her work, the losses will be greater. This is especially the case when the patient had significant earnings at the time the injury occurred. In some cases, though, the injury is either not closely tied to the patient’s ability to earn money, or the patient’s earnings at the time the injury occurred were modest. These factors can lead to smaller awards for economic damages.

In our next post, we’ll continue this discussion.Â



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