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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