YOU ASK:

Does medical malpractice insurance cover punitive damages?

WE ANSWER:

Yes and no. There are medical malpractice insurance policies that cover punitive damages, there are some that don't. Of course, if you want to add coverage for punitive damage, then you will need to pay an extra premium.

A medical malpractice case covers two types of damages. These are compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages

From the name, compensatory damages will pay compensation for damages caused by the covered medical practitioner. Compensation may come in the form of:

  • Medical expenses (both present and future) in connection with the treatment for the damage caused
  • Lost wages or income (both during the time the complainant was injured and the time he is in recovery/rehabilitation)
  • Loss of a job
  • Other related expenses and out of pocket costs related to the injury
  • Replacement services. Fees paid for services that the complainant should have been able to do had he not been injured (for instance, child care, housekeeping or elderly care).
  • Funerary or burial costs
  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Compensation for disability

Punitive damages is an amount set by the court not for compensating the injuries caused but to punish the erring party, in this case the medical practitioner and prevent him from performing the same acts in the future. This is designed to make an example out of him in order to discourage other medical practitioners from making the same mistake.

Punitive damages for medical malpractice cases are rare and are available only in some states. It is rare because the complainant should be able to prove that the medical practitioner actually intended to harm the complainant with his acts or omissions. The complainant may also try to prove that the medical practitioner was reckless, negligent or acted criminally in the performance of his duties.

Although punitive damages are rare, it should not be belittled because the punitive damage consequences are very serious.

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