Can Patients Get Punitive Damages for Medical Negligence?
Generally, in a medical malpractice case, injured patients are awarded damages that are designed to compensate them for the harm they suffered as a result of a medical professional’s negligent actions. These damages are also referred to as “compensatory damages” and include compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and even pain and suffering. Ultimately, compensatory damages are meant to make the injured patient whole again.
However, there is another category of damages, known as “punitive damages,” which serve a different purpose. In some cases, a medical professional’s error might be so egregious that he or she must be punished.
Under What Circumstances Are Punitive Damages Available?
In some states, punitive damages might be available for injured patients in a medical malpractice lawsuit if they are able to prove that the medical professional engaged in intentional or exceptionally reckless behavior, resulting in serious injuries. However, in the state of New Hampshire, punitive damages are never permitted. Instead, New Hampshire has what is known as “enhanced compensatory damages,” which are only awarded to a plaintiff when the acts of the medical professional are “wanton, malicious, or oppressive.” In other words, if the medical professional’s acts go far beyond negligence, veering into hatred and ill will, it is possible for an injured patient to recover enhanced compensatory damages.
Enhanced compensatory damages are essentially New Hampshire’s way of highlighting the nature of the circumstances under which he or she was injured when the time comes to awarding him or her damages. On the other hand, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their actions.
Much like punitive damages, over which there is still much debate, there is also a bit of an ongoing debate regarding enhanced compensatory damages in the state of New Hampshire. The debate involves the question of whether it would be appropriate for motor vehicle accidents involving drunk drivers to be eligible for enhanced compensatory damages. Although the New Hampshire Supreme Court noted that such accidents do not warrant enhanced damages, other trial court decisions in state reached contradictory conclusions.
Skilled Medical Malpractice Attorneys in New Hampshire
If you or a loved one sustained injuries at the hands of a negligent medical professional, you have the right to pursue fair and just compensation that will cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. At Injury Law Center®, our team of skilled medical malpractice attorneys in New Hampshire is dedicated to providing exceptional legal representation for those who have been wrongfully injured.
Get started on your medical malpractice case today and reach out to our law firm at (603) 266-5046 to request your free initial case evaluation with one of our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys.