When a patient sues for medical malpractice, the aim is to secure some sort of compensation for the injuries, expenses and emotional loss they incurred due to negligence. Some settlements seem paltry in light of the losses. Elsewhere they seem extravagant (though it remains difficult to truly quantify emotional loss, and thereby would be hard to describe a settlement as ‘extravagant’ or ‘overzealous.’)
Monetary awards only go so far when functioning as consolation; some losses can simply never be compensated – but the court does try. One type of malpractice regularly yielding enormous settlements is negligence that gave rise to birth injuries. A common thread in such cases is a child suffering brain damage that leads to cerebral palsy. Given its regularity, from a legal and medical standpoint, the situation is worth examining.
To offer some background on damages: economic damages cover quantifiable losses, like concrete medical expenses and loss of earnings. Non-economic damages compensate associated losses that are more subjective or abstract in nature. Examples are pain, suffering, loss of companionship and injuries that are permanent in nature, like blindness and paralysis. Some states – namely Vermont, Arizona, Illinois, Alabama, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Wyoming, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas – impose no limits on the noneconomic damages an injured plaintiff can recover in a medical malpractice case. Despite having no caps, these states often award rather conservative settlements, with Vermont exemplifying this phenomenon.
A court will seek to rightfully, reasonably compensate wronged parties. Concurrently, most courts do not wish to financially place injured plaintiffs in the ranks of lottery winners. Medical malpractice is victimizing – the court does not want to promote an image that it is also absurdly financially rewarding. The very concept of ‘damage caps’ operates in that assumption. However, where newborn life is concerned, courts seem to have demonstrated unparalleled sympathy. Examiners might characterize such cases as “aggressively compensated.”
The trend of huge birth injury payouts is observable in the aforementioned states for which no limit is imposed. A 2013 article in Physician’s Money Digest cited the top ten highest malpractice settlements of all time. 5 out of the 10 were birth injury cases – all 5 were cases of brain injury leading to cerebral palsy. Birth injury causing cerebral palsy has spawned multi-million dollar settlements for years, and are seemingly unique for their consistency in doing so. Recently, plaintiffs were awarded a $53 million settlement in a cerebral palsy case. $19 million settlement was recently awarded to parents in cerebral palsy case. A different Pennsylvania cerebral palsy case saw a $14.5 million payout. An Omaha judge awarded a couple $11 million for their newborn child’s cerebral palsy. This is but a handful even with a ‘recent’ timeframe imposed.
Attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian understand the physical and emotional distress of incorrect or incomplete medical treatment and will do everything they can to successfully litigate your case. Call their office today at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online.
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