Nobody ever expects to be the victim of medical malpractice. If you find yourself in this situation, it is natural and understandable to have many questions. You should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to have your questions answered. This guide, however, will provide the answer to one of the most basic, but most important, questions: “What kinds of damages can be recovered in a medical malpractice case?”


The legal term used to describe the things that the plaintiff can be compensated for in a court case is damages. There are three types of damages, and all three are possibilities for medical malpractice cases. The types of damages are:

  • Special compensatory damages
  • General compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages

Special compensatory damages are associated with all financial losses. Essentially, if you lost money because of the medical malpractice, that suffering will be included in this category. All special compensatory damages have an exact monetary value, which makes them easy to claim and be compensated for. In medical malpractice cases, examples of special compensatory damages include hospital bills, lost wages, the purchase of medicine or medical equipment, and loss of earning ability.

General compensatory damages are associated with all non-financial losses. All suffering that was not monetary in nature falls into this category. Because general compensatory damages do not have an exact monetary value by their very nature, it is up to the judge to assign a value to any damages of this type that are valid. The defendant is then responsible for compensating the plaintiff by the amount the judge determines. Examples of general compensatory damages in medical malpractice cases include physical pain, emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of ability. If you are filing a lawsuit on a loved one’s behalf, you may also claim loss of life as a general compensatory damage.

Punitive damages are unique among damages in that they are not a form of compensation. Instead, punitive damages are assigned as punishment for the defendant. This usually only happens when someone acts especially irresponsibly or breaks a law. For example, a doctor might be assigned punitive damages if he or she lied to a patient about a diagnosis.One of the first things that needs to happen in a medical malpractice case is organizing and listing all the damages you wish to claim. An attorney, can help you with this process and ensure you do not forget any possible claim.