Washington Medical Malpractice: What Damages Might You Be Entitled To?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Damages in medical malpractice lawsuits can be fairly significant when a serious or permanent injury has occurred. While these types of cases tend to require more sophisticated damage calculations, Matt Menzer, a Washington medical malpractice attorney, says that using the right experts, videos and creating a favorable perception can go a long way.

Using experts to calculate damages

Menzer says that a variety of different experts may be needed to calculate the amount of damages in a medical malpractice case. He explained what types of experts he might use and why:

  • Economists. If somebody was injured as a result of malpractice and has become disabled from working, you generally have to bring in experts to determine what their financial losses are going to be over the rest of their life.
  • Vocational experts. The more difficult and serious cases may require vocational experts to determine how an injury is going to affect a person’s career choices or their work-life expectancy and what other losses have resulted from the malpractice.
  • Medical experts. One thing that makes these malpractice cases (and the more serious personal injury cases) different is the question of what future medical care is going to cost, which can be relatively complicated. Somebody who has a very serious injury may require ongoing medical care for the rest of their life – for example, if they have been paralyzed or experience chronic pain due to medical malpractice. In that type of case, we’ll need to bring in experts to talk about all of the different medical care that will be needed, whether that care will increase or decrease over time and what all of that medical treatment will likely cost over years or even decades.
  • Psychologists / Psychiatrists. Where there has been significant injury due to medical malpractice, I often see emotional distress so severe that the person requires the services of psychologists or psychiatrists to help them deal with their disabilities or their injuries. In fact, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is fairly common when you have these very serious injuries. If you have these kind of emotional injuries that require care or treatment, then you’ve got to factor the costs of that care into your damage calculations.

Day in the Life videos

The damages presentation can become very sophisticated with courtroom technology from PowerPoint presentations to computer assisted reenactments of the accident and things of that nature, according to Menzer. He says that when you have somebody who has very serious injuries, there are ways to present that information to the jury beyond just having the injured party and the family testifying. He explained:

We use “Day in the Life” videos where a videographer films what a person’s day to day life looks like, how they deal with their disabilities or their injuries at home or at work and record and dramatize the day to day details that are so important, but otherwise difficult to portray in a courtroom. Being able to videotape that evidence and present it to a jury so they can see for themselves how difficult an injured person’s life is can be very effective.

Perception is important

Menzer says that the jury’s perception – especially when it comes to how plaintiffs and their experts present themselves to the jury – is also important. He continued:

In terms of pain and suffering and other non-economic damages, in my mind the value or amount of those damages can be dependent upon the type or degree of negligence that occurred as well as the personalities of both the plaintiff, the injured party and the defendant. So if you have a client who presents well, is sympathetic and somebody the jury can relate to, a lot of times that comes out in the measure of non-economic damages.

Similarly, if you have a doctor who doesn’t present well, or doesn’t seem to be remorseful for the mistake that was made, that generally won’t go over well with the jury and can be reflected in the amount of damages awarded for pain and suffering. However, generally speaking, the more obvious or gross the error, I think the more the jury responds with a verdict for the injured party that reflects the magnitude of the error.

Whether you’ve been injured by a doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, chiropractor or any type of health care provider, including a hospital, HMO, clinic and pharmacy, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help.

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