How Are Damages Awarded in a Medical Malpractice Case?

Medical malpractice is a serious issue that occurs when a healthcare provider’s negligence causes harm to a patient. In such cases, victims are entitled to various types of damages to compensate for their losses. Understanding these damages is crucial for anyone involved in a medical malpractice claim, as they can significantly impact the compensation received.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are tangible losses that can be quantified in monetary terms. They aim to reimburse the victim for financial expenses directly resulting from the malpractice.

1. Medical Expenses

Medical expenses include all costs incurred due to the injury caused by malpractice. This encompasses hospital bills, surgeries, medication, rehabilitation, and any future medical care required as a result of the malpractice.

  • Example: A patient undergoes unnecessary surgery due to a misdiagnosis, leading to additional medical bills for corrective procedures and ongoing treatment.

2. Lost Income

Lost income compensates the victim for wages or earnings lost because of the injury caused by malpractice. This includes both the income lost during the recovery period and potential future income if the injury results in long-term disability or inability to work.

  • Example: A patient who suffers permanent disability due to a surgical error may be unable to return to their previous occupation, resulting in lost earning capacity.

3. Loss of Earning Capacity

Loss of earning capacity compensates the victim for the reduction in their ability to earn income in the future due to the injury caused by malpractice. This is calculated based on factors such as the person’s age, occupation, skills, and the impact of the injury on their ability to work.

  • Example: A surgeon loses fine motor skills in their dominant hand due to a surgical error, which prevents them from performing surgeries, significantly reducing their earning capacity.

4. Funeral and Burial Expenses

In cases where medical malpractice results in death, economic damages may include funeral and burial expenses incurred by the victim’s family.

  • Example: A patient dies due to complications from a medication error, and their family incurs funeral expenses.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate the victim for intangible losses that are not easily quantifiable in monetary terms. These damages aim to provide compensation for the pain, suffering, and emotional distress caused by the malpractice.

1. Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering damages compensate the victim for physical pain and discomfort caused by the malpractice, as well as the emotional distress resulting from the injury.

  • Example: A patient experiences chronic pain and emotional trauma after a surgical error leaves them with permanent nerve damage.

2. Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Loss of enjoyment of life compensates the victim for the inability to participate in activities and hobbies they enjoyed before the malpractice.

  • Example: A professional athlete loses the ability to participate in sports due to a misdiagnosed injury, impacting their quality of life.

3. Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium damages compensate the victim’s spouse or family for the loss of companionship, support, and services resulting from the injury caused by malpractice.

  • Example: A patient’s spouse experiences a loss of companionship and emotional support due to the patient’s permanent disability caused by medical negligence.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are less common and are intended to punish the healthcare provider for particularly egregious conduct and to deter similar future misconduct. These damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages and require proof of intentional or reckless behavior.

  • Example: A surgeon operates under the influence of drugs, resulting in serious injury to a patient. Punitive damages may be awarded to deter such behavior in the future.


In conclusion, navigating a medical malpractice case involves understanding the types of damages that may be awarded to compensate the victim for their losses. Economic damages cover measurable financial losses, while non-economic damages compensate for intangible harms such as pain and suffering. Punitive damages serve as a deterrent against egregious conduct. If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice in San Diego, seeking the expertise of a San Diego medical malpractice attorney is crucial. They can provide the legal guidance and representation needed to pursue fair compensation and hold responsible parties accountable.


  1. American Bar Association. (n.d.). Medical Malpractice Damages. Retrieved from
  2. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Understanding Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases. Retrieved from
  3. Medical Malpractice Center. (n.d.). Types of Damages in Medical Malpractice Claims. Retrieved from
  4. National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Economic and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice. Retrieved from
  5. National Conference of State Legislatures. (n.d.). Punitive Damages Overview. Retrieved from