In our last post, we spoke briefly about a recent Hennepin County case in which a $9.1 million award was granted. That award, we noted, is the largest that has been seen in years, and is a reminder of the potential costs health care providers face when they get tangled up in medical malpractice litigation.
Damages are, of course, an important aspect of medical malpractice litigation. For plaintiffs, damages are typically the primary reason for pursuing such litigation, particularly in cases where a medical injury leaves the patient with costly, ongoing medical needs. In terms of types of damages, both economic and non-economic damages can be important in medical malpractice litigation.
Economic damages, which are awarded to cover costs that can be easily quantified, are important in cases where medical costs and lost wages are significant. Not every medical malpractice case involves significant medical costs and lost wages, though. It depends on the nature of the injury and the income of the patient at the time the injury occurred. In cases where these costs are lower, non-economic damages can be an important way for an injured patient to obtain compensation. Such damages are awarded for things like pain and suffering, disfigurement, permanent disability, trauma, and other harms that can’t readily be quantified.
Minnesota, unlike some states, does not put limitations on the amount of non-economic damages an injured patient may receive in medical malpractice litigation. This is good for patients, but can lead to sky-high judgments against physicians. According to the Minnesota Medical Association, this in turn leads to increased costs of insurance for physicians, or even an inability to obtain coverage at all.
Physicians who face medical malpractice allegations, of course, should always work with experienced legal counsel to build the best defense case possible. Doing so will ensure that an accused physician has the best shot at reducing their liability. In addition, experienced counsel can help provide advocacy with respect to an accused physician’s license and ability to continue practicing his or her profession. We’ll look more at this issue in a future post.