What type of damages are recoverable in a medical malpractice lawsuit?

In a successful medical malpractice lawsuit, the defendant health care provider must pay money damages to the person who was injured by a medical error.

Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the victim, or make him or her whole. Compensatory damages are generally divided into economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages refers to out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity and the cost of future medical care and support. Non-economic damages refers to pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement and loss of ability to enjoy life.

A 2003 Florida law placed limits on non-economic damages. However, in 2014 the Florida Supreme Court found those limits unconstitutional with regard to wrongful death cases, and the limits are currently being challenged in other types of cases as well.

In addition to compensatory damages, a court may award punitive damages in some cases, such as cases of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Punitive damages are paid to the victim, but the purpose is to punish the wrongdoer.

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