What Is Pain and Suffering in Medical Malpractice Cases?

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In medical malpractice cases, there are two types of damages you may incur from the party who negligently caused the injury. They’re called economic and noneconomic damages.

Economic damages provide financial aid for actual bills, such as medical treatment, lost wages, or prescriptions.

Noneconomic damages, on the other hand, seek to put a dollar amount on intangible effects of a person’s injury, often included under the subject of “pain and suffering.” Especially in the realm of medical malpractice claims, pain and suffering can make up a large percentage, if not the majority, of a victim’s allowed damages, depending on the case.

Though people typically associate pain and suffering with the most gut-wrenching or traumatizing stories of medical malpractice, there are more common ways to seek compensation for the non-billable effects of a medical professional’s negligence.

How to Define Pain and Suffering

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The criteria for assigning monetary value to a medical malpractice victim’s pain and suffering are purposefully vague. It can include side effects such as:

  • Physical pain (often chronic or permanent)
  • Permanent loss of function
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of companionship or ability to provide love and/or care
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement

These conditions are by no means an exhaustive list, and each person’s pain and suffering from medical malpractice will vary greatly.

Determining the Value of Pain and Suffering

Another aspect of the medical malpractice claim process is the valuation of a person’s pain and suffering. Two people with identical symptoms may end up with extremely different damages, depending on their personal story.

For example, a young sports player preparing to be drafted into the major leagues who ends up partially paralyzed due to a surgical error will likely receive more in noneconomic damages than a man who is close to retirement age and is less physically active.

Because the young man’s entire career is jeopardized, he may receive more compensation because of the loss of both wages and lifestyle. The older man, however, may not receive as much because the loss to his lifestyle is not as severe.

Earning Noneconomic Damages in Indiana

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Unlike the remainder of the claim, pursuing noneconomic damages requires an equal emphasis on hard evidence and a compelling story.

Some parts of a victim’s story may never surface in trial unless the plaintiff’s attorney points them out. The defendant will try to gloss over details such as the patient’s former lifestyle, family responsibilities, and permanent disabilities if possible, because it means they will likely have to pay more in damages.

The example above shows the importance of having an attorney by your side who can tell your story well. If the young man’s prognosis was good — if he would regain the use of his legs and would walk again within a decade — the jury may decide that he really doesn’t have it all that bad. When they find out that even with this prognosis, he would miss almost his entire career as an athlete, they may change their mind.

Indiana Medical Malpractice Caps

However, it’s worth noting that having a compelling story and an experienced attorney can only get you so far in a medical malpractice trial. The state of Indiana has set limits on the total amount of compensation medical malpractice victims can receive from a single case. If the medical malpractice occurred between June 2017 and June 2019, that limit is $1.65 million.

Though that sounds like an immense amount of money, it may not be to someone whose entire career is affected by their injury. An experienced Indiana medical malpractice attorney can evaluate your case and give you realistic expectations for what you may or may not be able to recover if you choose to go to trial.

Get Help from an Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney

Medical malpractice cases are extremely convoluted, and without the strength and guidance of a lawyer, the case may be dismissed.

If you’re considering filing for medical malpractice, take a step back and call a medical malpractice attorney. Find out what you’re getting into, if your case is valid, and who will represent your interests in court. Hensley Legal Group’s experienced attorneys are ready to hear from you. Your conversation with us is free, and there’s no obligation to use our services. Call or contact us online today.