What Are Special Damages?

Are you thinking about pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit? If so, you might know that defendants can recover compensation to make up for losses. You may have also heard the term “special damages”. What are these damages and how are they calculated?

In this article, we’ll define special damages and other types of medical malpractice compensation. To learn more about what you might recover in your specific case, contact our lawyers here.

Patient with permanent health issues because of malpractice.

Types Of Medical Malpractice Compensation

Monetary compensation can’t make up for the loss of a loved one. It can’t rewind time or undo damage that has been done. But it can lessen the blow. 

It can pay for necessary medical equipment, care, or rehabilitation. It can cover funeral and burial costs in case of loss of life. Medical malpractice compensation can also replace lost wages. 

All these things (and more) must be factored in when calculating the total amount of compensation. Your medical malpractice lawyer will help you estimate the amount you need and deserve. Then, your lawyer will gather evidence to support this number. They may use anything from hospital bills to expert testimony.

In general, medical malpractice compensation falls into three categories: special, general, and punitive damages. 

Special Damages

What are they? In medical malpractice cases, they are the losses you can quantify, or put a dollar amount to. Some examples are hospital expenses and lost wages. A hospital bill or a pay stub will suffice to prove how much you lost. 

These damages are sometimes referred to as “economic damages”. They are the kind that you can prove with documentation. Future medical expenses are an exception to this. But a lawyer can calculate these based on past or present expenses, or by estimating the cost of treatment that a doctor has prescribed. 

What are special damages in medical malpractice?

  • Past, current, future medical expenses
  • Cost of home medical care
  • Medical equipment cost
  • Cost of therapy or rehabilitation
  • Lost wages due to incapacity to work
  • Replacement or repair of damaged property
  • Hospital stay and doctor visits 

General Damages

What price would you put on, say, enjoyment in life? Recreation and satisfaction are priorities for most. But they’re not commodities you can buy or sell. 

When an injury due to malpractice reduces quality of life, there may be no way to restore it. So medical lawsuits tag it with a dollar amount. This amount is known as “general damages”. 

General damages can include:

  • Lost earning capacity for the future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Physical disfigurement
  • Lower quality of life
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Mental or emotional anguish
  • Loss of companionship

How can you determine an exact amount of medical malpractice compensation for something like pain and suffering? Victims and family members can give testimony of what they’ve gone through. Experts can weigh in with an estimation about lost future earnings. 

Punitive Damages

The third type of medical malpractice compensation is punitive damages. These are payments for purposeful, harmful conduct. You might call them “punishment for bad behavior”. 

Punitive damages set an example for medical personnel to deter them from committing egregious acts.They are rare, and don’t apply to every malpractice case. 

Who determines the amount of punitive damages? Usually it’s a judge or jury’s decision. But each state has rules that limit these. For example, they can’t cost more than about three times the amount of general and special damages. 

Here are some examples of cases involving punitive damages:

  • Medical staff insults or abuses a patient
  • A practitioner is violent toward a patient or injures them on purpose
  • A doctor carves his initials into a patient during a C-section
  • An anesthesiologist and assistants trash their patient during a colonoscopy. The patient accidently recorded their comments with his phone. 
Man suffers from lower quality of life after malpractice.

What Are Special Damages & Other Damages Limited By?

Most victims of medical malpractice are looking to get as much compensation as possible. And they deserve every penny! But state laws and certain circumstances cap the amount you can get. 

For example:

  • Some states limit the total amount of damages you can collect. Others cap only general damages. Contact us to find out what the limit is in your case. 
  • You can’t get medical malpractice compensation if you file your lawsuit too late. Each state has rules on how many years you have to file after medical malpractice has occurred. Usually it’s two or three years.

Wondering how much medical malpractice compensation you’re entitled to for your injury? Schedule a cost-free consultation with our lawyers here.