Doctors and other healthcare providers fill a vital role in the lives of Connecticut residents. People are often at their most vulnerable when they are sick or injured, and need to be able to count on professionals who take their patients’ needs and rights into consideration, and do their jobs as competently as human beings can. The results of physicians who make mistakes or act in an unreasonable manner can be devastating to the health of a patient and the mental and emotional well-being of his or her family and loved ones.
We’ve previously discussed some of the basics of medical malpractice cases in Connecticut. When healthcare providers do not perform their functions with the reasonable care a person with similar training and experience would have, that provider may be liable for the damage done to the patient. So far, we’ve mainly focused upon the compensatory damages that a person may be able to recover; that is, the award a court may make to redress the further medical costs, and possibly, pain and suffering caused by the mistake made. These awards are meant to make the plaintiff whole, by compensating him or her for what happened.
There is, however, another type of damage award that may be available in certain limited circumstances. These are called punitive damages, and they serve to punish and deter the kind of conduct that occurred in certain cases. In Connecticut, these types of awards are limited to cases in which a healthcare provider acted either intentionally, or with reckless disregard of another’s rights. These are higher standards than the basic professional negligence that needs to be shown for regular compensatory damage awards. Further, the state limits the amount that can be awarded in the punitive category to that amount necessary to cover the actual costs of the litigation. This might include attorney’s fees, filing fees, expert witness fees etc.
While only a few cases of medical malpractice in Connecticut will qualify for punitive damage awards, they exist to punish and deter especially reprehensible conduct against vulnerable people by people in a position of power. Individuals with questions about possible medical malpractice cases may wish to consider seeking out an experienced attorney.