What Type of Compensation can I Recover in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for my Child's Birth Injury?
Filing a cause of action for your child’s birth injury can be the only way to obtain the financial compensation your family needs. If you are paying for long-term medical expenses, along with lost wages and disability costs, your financial future could depend on whether you hold the at-fault party responsible for damages. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit for a birth injury in Illinois could result in the recovery of many types of damages.
Two Damage Categories: Compensatory and Punitive
The two main categories of civil lawsuit damages are compensatory and punitive. The goal of compensatory damages is to reimburse a victim for the losses he or she suffered in the accident. Compensatory damages should provide restitution for economic and noneconomic losses the victim incurred because of the actions of the defendant. The theory behind compensatory damages is that since the victim did not cause his or her own damages, the victim should not have to pay. Almost all successful birth injury claims result in some amount of compensatory damages.
Punitive damages aim to punish the defendant rather than to reimburse the plaintiff. Punitive damages are a way to rebuke the defendant for gross medical malpractice, wanton disregard for the safety of others, recklessness, or malicious intent to harm. A judge may award punitive damages in a birth injury case as a warning to the defendant and to other health care practitioners in the area not to make the same mistake again. A judge may also grant punitive damages if he or she believes compensatory damages are not enough to relieve the plaintiff’s losses. Not all cases will result in punitive damage awards.
Economic Damages Available
The compensatory damage category has two subjections: economic (special) and noneconomic (general) damages. Economic damages, or special damages, are those specific to the case and the victim. They involve monetary damages the plaintiff had to pay out of pocket because of the defendant’s malpractice. Economic damages in a birth injury claim may include:
- Medical expenses. Past and future costs of the child’s medical care, including doctor’s appointments, specialists, surgeries, therapies, rehabilitation, treatments, medications, medications, and medical devices related to the birth injury.
- Disability costs. If a birth injury caused a lifelong disability, parents can claim long-term damages. Lifelong damages may include the costs of life support, ongoing medical care, live-in nursing care, and home or vehicle modifications.
- Special education. A child with cerebral palsy or another cognitive condition because of a birth injury may require special education, as well as occupational, behavioral, and speech therapies. An economic damage award could include coverage for special education.
- Lost wages. Parents often have to miss work to bring children to doctor’s appointments or otherwise tend to an injured or disabled child’s needs. Parents can file a claim for these lost wage damages.
- Court costs and legal fees. The defendant may also have to pay for the plaintiff’s birth injury lawsuit legal fees and court costs if the defendant loses the civil lawsuit.
Calculating the amount of economic damages available in a birth injury claim takes adding up all the bills and costs related to the child’s injury. The amount of economic damages is usually a clear number based on past and foreseeable future expenses.
Noneconomic Damages Available
Noneconomic damages are a type of compensatory damage to reimburse the general losses a family might experience because of a birth injury. They involve emotions, feelings, and mental anguish rather than out-of-pocket expenses or bills. Noneconomic damages may include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish and psychological trauma
- Lost quality or enjoyment of life
Noneconomic are more difficult to calculate than economic losses. Rather than relying on hard evidence, a lawyer will play to the jury’s sympathies to achieve an appropriate noneconomic damage award. An attorney may demonstrate the severe impact the defendant’s actions had on the plaintiff by way of eyewitness testimonies, medical expert opinions, and photographs.
Most juries will use the multiplier method to determine a noneconomic damage award amount. The multiplier method takes the amount of economic damages and multiplies it by a factor indicative of the plaintiff’s losses. The jury will hear the plaintiff’s case and determine on a multiplier between one and five. In general, the more catastrophic the birth injury, the higher the multiplier.
The other common way to calculate noneconomic damages is the per diem method. The per diem method applies a daily rate the child pays while living with the birth injury, then multiplies it by the number of days the child will need to recover. The per diem method is more common for nonpermanent birth injuries, such as broken bones.
Find out What Your Case is Worth
A successful case could result in the financial stability your family needs moving forward. Curious about the potential value of your birth injury claim? Speak to a Chicago birth injury lawyer at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC today. We can evaluate your claim openly and honestly during a free consultation. Contact us to schedule yours.