General damages are a type of financial compensation awarded to plaintiffs, or the suing party, in personal injury lawsuits such as cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits. General damages, also called non-economic damages, aim to compensate patients for non-monetary harm suffered as a result of the negligence of the defendant, or medical professional being sued.
General damages primarily cover mental, emotional, and psychosocial harm that a plaintiff experienced from the cancer misdiagnosis. Common general damages in a cancer misdiagnosis case include loss of quality of life, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. In cases where the cancer misdiagnosis caused the patient’s death, family members who file a cancer misdiagnosis may also receive special damages. These damages often include bereavement and loss of companionship.
General Damages vs. Special Damages
In a personal injury lawsuit, general damages and special damages are the primary forms of compensation for a winning plaintiff. While general damages cover less quantifiable harm, special damages cover tangible financial loss. Special damages may be awarded to compensate for medical bills, lost income from missed work, and other costs faced by the plaintiff after the cancer misdiagnosis. Punitive damages are a third, less common type of personal injury compensation. As opposed to general damages and special damages, punitive damages aim to punish defendants rather than compensate plaintiffs.
Types of General Damages
In a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit, general damages primarily cover mental and emotional harm suffered by the plaintiff. In cases where family members are suing after the death of a cancer misdiagnosis patient, general damages will aim to cover the family’s mental and emotional harm. These damages include the mourning process of losing a loved one, as well as subsequent changes in the lives of family members.
Pain and Suffering
The term pain and suffering may refer to both physical and mental distress experienced from the plaintiff’s cancer misdiagnosis. General damages for physical pain and suffering will depend on the type and nature of the injury and how it affected or continues to affect the plaintiff. Younger plaintiffs may receive a larger financial reward, as they may endure long-term pain and suffering for the rest of their lives.
Loss of Quality of Life
In many cancer misdiagnosis cases, the plaintiff will experience loss of quality of life. As indicated by the legal terminology, this occurs when a plaintiff is negatively impacted in such a way that his or her overall quality of life is diminished in some way. Long-term loss of quality of life may be seen when a cancer misdiagnosis victim is unable to continue a personal hobby or provide his or her family with the same level of care.
Other types of general damages may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Disability and permanent impairment
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Depression and anxiety
- Shortened life expectancy
Calculating General Damages
By nature, general damages cannot be calculated in the same manner as special damages. There is no clear method for calculating general damages in a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit. As a result, plaintiffs may have difficulty proving the extent of general damages in a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit. Medical experts may offer testimony to discuss the mental and emotional trauma of individuals in similar circumstances of the plaintiff. As a general rule, the court is advised to award reasonable compensation for victims based on provided evidence of the plaintiff’s harm.
General Damages Caps
Some states place caps on the amount of general damages and other damages that can be awarded in a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit or other personal injury lawsuit. Florida imposes a cap on compensation for general damages. Generally speaking, this cap limits the award to $500,000. However, there are exceptions to the cap that may result in an increase of up to $1.5 million. These exceptions take into account factors such as the extent of harm caused and whether or not the defendant is a doctor, other medical professional, or other involved party or entity. For example, if a permanent vegetative state or death resulted from the negligence of a non-practitioner, the plaintiff may be entitled to up to $1.5 million.
Baltic, Scott. “Tort reform: while some states have taken action to cap damages, fear of litigation still drives defensive medicine.” Medical Economics 10 Aug. 2013: 20+. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.
Kachalia, Allen, et al. “Rationalizing noneconomic damages: a health-utilities approach.” Law and Contemporary Problems Summer 2011: 57+. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.
Newman, Elizabeth. “Florida cap on damages OK, court says.” McKnight’s Long-Term Care News July 2011: 22.Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.
Stein, Alex. “Toward a theory of medical malpractice.” Iowa Law Review May 2012: 1201+. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.