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  • Writer's pictureHon. James M. McGing (ret.)

Types of Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional fails to provide the appropriate standard of care, resulting in harm or injury to a patient. In Illinois, like in other states, victims of medical malpractice have the right to seek compensation for the damages they have suffered. These damages can be categorized into several types, each with its own considerations and legal principles.

1. Economic Damages: Economic damages refer to the financial losses incurred by the victim as a result of the medical malpractice. These damages are quantifiable and can be easily calculated. They include:

- Medical expenses: This includes all the costs related to the victim's medical treatment, such as hospital bills, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and therapy.

- Lost wages: If the victim is unable to work due to the injuries caused by medical malpractice, they may be entitled to compensation for the wages they have lost during their recovery period.

- Future earning capacity: In cases where the victim's injuries result in long-term or permanent disability, they may be awarded damages to compensate for the loss of future earning capacity.

- Cost of home modifications and assistive devices: If the victim requires modifications to their home or the use of assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or prosthetics, they may be entitled to compensation for these expenses.

2. Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages are more subjective and harder to quantify as they relate to the victim's pain, suffering, and emotional distress. These damages include:

- Pain and suffering: This refers to the physical and emotional distress experienced by the victim as a result of the medical malpractice. It takes into account the severity of the injuries, the duration of the pain, and the impact on the victim's quality of life.

- Emotional distress: Medical malpractice can have a significant psychological impact on the victim, leading to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other mental health conditions. Compensation may be awarded to address these emotional damages.

- Loss of consortium: If the victim's injuries affect their ability to maintain a normal relationship with their spouse, they may be entitled to compensation for the loss of consortium, which includes the loss of companionship, affection, and intimacy.

3. Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are awarded in cases where the healthcare professional's conduct is found to be particularly egregious or intentional. These damages aim to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar misconduct. However, in Illinois, punitive damages are subject to a cap, which limits the amount that can be awarded.

It is important to note that Illinois has implemented legislation to limit the amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases. These caps vary depending on the type of defendant (individual healthcare professional or healthcare institution) and the year in which the malpractice occurred. However, these caps do not apply to economic damages or damages related to the future cost of medical care.

In conclusion, victims of medical malpractice in Illinois have the right to seek compensation for the damages they have suffered. These damages can be economic, non-economic, or punitive in nature, and are intended to provide the victim with financial support and acknowledge the harm they have endured. Seeking legal advice from an experienced medical malpractice attorney is crucial to navigate the complexities of these cases and ensure the victim's rights are protected.

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