Earlier this month, a Georgia state court awarded a $6.7 million judgment in a medical malpractice suit involving a man whose intestine was punctured during a hernia operation. The resulting injuries ended the man’s career as a millworker and forced his wife to give up her job in order to care for him. The award was divided among the couple, with the husband receiving $5.2 million and the wife receiving $1.5 million.
In early 2002, Thomas Jackson underwent a four hour hernia operation. The presiding surgeon perforated the outer layer of Jackson’s small intestine during the course of the operation. Because the surgeon did not believe that the cut was deep enough to cause a leak, he did not take steps to repair it during the surgery. The leak was discovered several weeks later. During the time that had elapsed since the perforation, Jackson developed a serious infection; his organs began to fail and he required a ventilator in order to breath.
Jackson was forced to undergo four additional surgeries. He was bedridden in a hospital intensive care unit for over six months, sustaining deep bed sores and contractions in his legs which left them permanently bent. Despite over two and half years of physical therapy, Jackson continues to experience limited mobility in his legs and requires a wheelchair. Prior to his surgery, Jackson worked 12 hour days as a millworker. In his free time, he used to garden, build metal sculptures, and weld.
In December 2003, the Jacksons filed a medical malpractice suit against the presiding surgeon, his employer, the hospital where the surgery was performed as well as, the physician in charge of the hospital’s intensive care unit. The Jacksons reached a settlement with the hospital and a jury determined that the supervising physician was not liable for the medical error. However, the jury did find the surgeon and his employer liable and awarded the couple a $6.7 million judgment.
Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
If you are injured as a result of medical error and prevail on a medical malpractice claim, you may be entitled to a monetary award for your injuries and losses. The amount of your award will be decided by a judge or jury, depending on the circumstances of your case. There are three distinct types of damages that you may receive: compensatory damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are a monetary award which recoups the injured party for financial losses and expenses resulting from the injury. Compensatory damages include medical costs as well as, lost wages. A compensatory damage award covers both the cost of past expenses, in addition to, anticipated expenses.
Non-economic damages are a monetary award which compensates the injured party for non-tangible losses. This includes pain and suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, scarring, loss of companionship, and other similar losses associated with the injury.
Punitive damages are a monetary award imposed to punish the healthcare professional and other defendants for their negligent actions. In Georgia punitive damages may only be collected in circumstances where clear and convincing evidence shows that the defendant’s negligent treatment of the patient was willful, committed with malice, or fraudulent.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, you should contact an attorney immediately.