You haven’t felt like yourself since the surgery. The doctor said that you would experience discomfort for the next few days, but it was only an appendectomy.
Finally, you can’t stand it. You head to your GP and explain how you’ve been feeling. The GP takes a quick X-ray and there it is, the source of your pain: the doctor, or someone, dropped their watch inside of you. And to top it all off, your doctor is worried because the battery could be leaking. You’re angry and you want to sue someone. How can someone forget their watch? It isn’t like losing an earring.
Medical malpractice suits proceed in two phases: liability and damages. Liability: how do you know who dropped the watch in you? Wait, what about the people who didn’t notice that it dropped? Whom do you bring suit against? Luckily, you can sue everyone and let them figure out who is actually liable. You only need to establish that the care you received deviated from accepted medical practices, like leaving a watch next to your spleen. Once there, it is up to the defendants to pin the blame.
The trial then turns to damages, or how much money you have a right to recover. There are two kinds of damages: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages are actual costs you will incur because of the harm suffered. This can be anything from increased transportation costs because you can’t drive, to medical costs, to your lost wages. Generally, a group of experts will argue over the correct number.
Noneconomic damages are things like pain and suffering or loss of consortium. This is our legal system’s way of compensating emotional pain with money. Commonly there is a cap on the maximum amount of money you can receive for noneconomic damages but there is usually no cap for economic damages.
Do not think about medical lawsuits as getting even with the doctor or nurses. Medical malpractice is about compensating you for the inconvenience of having your health put at risk by someone who was supposed to heal you.