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Home > Blog > Medical Malpractice > Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Medical Malpractice Cases?
by: NPHM | December 19, 2022

Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Medical Malpractice Cases?

When people sue doctors, surgeons, healthcare clinics, or hospitals for medical malpractice, they do so to get compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. These are all major expenses that come up when patients are harmed because of negligent care, and getting fair compensation often requires plenty of back-and-forth negotiation.

When at-fault parties and their insurers refuse to admit fault or pay a settlement, medical malpractice cases may go to trial. When that happens, yes, it can open the at-fault parties up to being required to pay another type of compensation: punitive damages.

What Are Punitive Damages?

The two types of damages awarded in most medical malpractice cases are economic and non-economic damages. Economic describes damages that are easily calculated, such as medical bills and lost wages, while non-economic describes damages that are more subjective, such as pain and suffering. Both types of damages are designed to help make victims whole again—or as much as possible after permanent harm is done—and aid their physical, financial, and emotional recoveries.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, aren’t designed to help victims. Instead, they are designed to punish at-fault parties. And while victims receive punitive damages in compensation the same way that they receive economic and non-economic damages, and are free to spend that compensation however they like, the intent of punitive damages is to set an example to others not to make the same negligent mistakes as the at-fault parties.

Punitive Damages Are Only Awarded at Trial

When medical malpractice claims settle outside of court, there’s no chance that victims will receive punitive damages. That’s because punitive damages are only awarded by judges or juries, which means that medical malpractice cases must go to trial for victims to have a chance to receive them.

Experienced lawyers know when and if punitive damages might be awarded in a trial. When medical providers or clinics are extremely negligent and cause patients to suffer major injuries or illnesses, punitive damages may be appropriate.

Examples of extreme negligence that is likely to result in serious injuries, illnesses, or complications include:

  • Operating on the wrong body part or amputating the wrong limb
  • Misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose an easily detected disease that progresses and becomes more severe or even life-threatening
  • Leaving a surgical instrument or item inside a patient’s body, including a scalpel, sponge, clamp, or glove

Severely injured medical malpractice victims have a chance of receiving punitive damages when their lawyers can successfully show how and why extreme negligence played a role in their injuries. In some cases, lawyers will even argue for punitive damages at trial when there’s a good likelihood that their clients will receive them.

Punitive Damages Are Capped at Twice the Compensatory Damages

In many cases, the punitive damages that medical malpractice victims receive are significant. However, they are capped at twice the amount of the compensatory damages they receive, to a maximum of $350,000. That means that if a medical malpractice victim receives $100,000 for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, their punitive damages are capped at $200,000.

Another cap applies when the at-fault party is a small business or individual. In these cases, punitive damages can’t exceed 10% of their net worth up to $350,000, regardless of the total of the victims’ compensatory damages. This cap can take effect when suing a small private healthcare clinic or a private practice healthcare worker, such as a chiropractor, who isn’t covered by a hospital or healthcare system.

We’ll Help You Get Full Compensation for Your Medical Malpractice Injury

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we know how important it is for our clients to get every penny they’re owed for their medical malpractice injuries, including punitive damages when their claims qualify. We build our clients’ claims so that they can’t be ignored by negligent doctors, healthcare facilities, and medical malpractice insurers. And once we’ve got their attention, we put our years of negotiation skills to work as we demand maximum compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Trust the experience, dedication, and track record of success of our Ohio medical malpractice lawyers. We’ll do everything in our power to make you financially whole again after a negligent doctor, surgeon, healthcare clinic, or hospital harmed. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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