The Basics of Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Damages: Special, General and Punitive Awards

Categories: Injury Lawyer Blog

Unlike many states, Pennsylvania has no damage cap for pain and suffering or economic loss in medical malpractice cases. However, statutory rule changes made in the early 2000’s reduced the amount of insurance coverage that doctors needed to carry and put several requirements in place that often lower the amount of future damages paid.

One type of medical malpractice involves a delayed cancer diagnosis. With any type of cancer, it is important to catch it early. In one case, the missed diagnosis of breast cancer forced a woman to undergo multiple cycles of aggressive chemotherapy along with a radical mastectomy. The late diagnosis reduced the patient’s life expectancy. The jury awarded her four million dollars in compensatory damages.

A damage award may include compensatory damages, general damages, and possibly even punitive damages.

Special Damages and Reasonable Valuation

Compensatory damages cover medical bills and lost wages that result from the injury. In many cases, an expert may need to testify to the value of future lost earnings and medical bills.

A jury generally determines the amount reasonably needed to cover these expenses. For example, in one case, a jury awarded approximately $440,000 for a delay in diagnosing cancer. Of that award, $150,000 was for past economic loss and $250,000 for future economic losses.

General Damage Awards

When a medical professional fails to follow the accepted standard of care and injures a patient, general damages attempt to provide a remedy for pain suffered because of the injury. These damages often include physical pain, mental anguish, loss of “enjoyment of life,” and consortium.

Evidence needs to show how the patient’s quality of life changed based on constant pain or an aggravation of a condition. For instance, considerable pain medication needed after an injury could affect an individual’s ability to concentrate and cause him or her to withdraw from social settings.

When deciding how to compensate a victim, a jury may consider the age of the individual, severity of the injury, the length of required medical treatment, the amount of physical pain and mental anguish, the individual’s condition before the injury, and whether or not the injury is permanent.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are to punish and are only available when the alleged misconduct was intentional. In Pennsylvania, there is a limit to these damages. They cannot exceed 200% of the compensatory award. When a jury orders punitive damages, the award is allocated between the physician and the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund.

Many types of damages depend on the concept of what is reasonable. This standard allows for discretion and requires adequate evidence and persuasive arguments to support an award.

When you or a loved one has suffered an injury or aggravation of a condition following a surgery, speak with Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq., an experienced personal injury lawyer. It often takes a specialized professional to uncover whether negligence played a role. Because these cases have strict filing deadlines, seek assistance as soon as possible. Call Mr. Penney’s today or fill out the contact form to get started on the road to recovery.