Are Punitive Damages Available in Medical Malpractice Cases?

Scaffidi & Associates discusses whether or not punitive damages are available in medical malpractice cases.

If you have been injured or suffered harm due to negligence on the part of your treating healthcare professionals,  hospital, or other medical facilities, you may wish to bring a medical malpractice claim. Most of the damages in a medical malpractice case are intended to compensate you for the harm done to you due to your doctor’s negligence. This is why they are called “compensatory damages.” Compensatory damages include both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are simple enough to calculate as they include easily quantifiable amounts such as lost wages and costs of medical care, in the past, currently, and in the future. Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify but are also very important. Non-economic damages seek to compensate a victim for more intangible losses such as pain and suffering. These compensatory damages seek to make the victim whole again, by compensating the victim for all losses sustained.

While compensatory damages are intended to compensate the victim for harm suffered, punitive damages exist for a different purpose. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victim. Instead, punitive damages are intended to punish the person who caused the harm to the victim.

What are punitive damages?

Punitive damages are considered to be an extraordinary award. They are available in medical malpractice cases, but only in rare situations. To award punitive damages means the court is going beyond wanting to see the victim made whole. The court needs to see circumstances that merit punishing the person or entity responsible for the harm suffered by the victim. 

New York case law shows courts awarding punitive damages when a doctor has done something so offensive, so deplorable, that having them only pay for compensatory damages would not be an adequate consequence. The doctor must have behaved in a way that was extremely reckless or in a way that intentionally harmed the patient. Courts have referenced circumstances where there was evidence of “a reckless indifference equivalent to a willful or intentional misdoing”, or a “wanton and reckless disregard of a plaintiff’s rights” in cases where punitive damages have been awarded. The doctor or responsible party must have acted in a highly offensive manner to warrant a punitive damage award.

Attorneys Fighting for Full and Fair Compensation for Medical Malpractice Victims

While punitive damages may be rare, if you have been injured due to the negligence of a medical provider, you should receive full and fair monetary compensation for the harm you have suffered. Scaffidi & Associates is here to help see that this happens. Contact us today.

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

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