At the same time, families who care for a child with birth injuries have to make big sacrifices. Some parents will be forced to give up their jobs, along with their wages, in order to provide for their children. And many, undoubtedly, will have to give up some of the dreams and aspirations they had held for their child.
Birth Injury Damages & Compensation
As a result, the bulk of compensation secured in a birth injury lawsuit usually falls into a category that medical malpractice attorneys refer to as “economic damages.” Economic damages can be quantified, usually through reference to bills and receipts, but also come to include expenses that a family will incur in the future due to their child’s injuries.
- Past and future medical expenses
- Physical and occupational therapy expenses
- Assistive devices (wheelchairs, walkers, accessible vehicles etc.)
- In-home care costs
- Home modification expenses
- Special education fees, if applicable
- Lost wages, in the event that a caregiver must take time off work to care for the child
- Lost earning potential, if it’s unlikely that the child will be able to maintain gainful employment in the future
Alongside economic damages, the vast majority of families also claim “non-economic” damages, forms of loss that can’t be quantified in an easy way.
- Mental trauma and anguish
- Pain (the experience of physical pain) and suffering
- Impairment (loss of the enjoyment of life)
How Are Financial Damages Calculated?
You can demand a certain amount of money, but you won’t necessarily get it. At trial, or in settlement negotiations, medical malpractice attorneys have to substantiate their compensation demands through evidence.
So how do we estimate how much money it will cost to provide a child who has suffered severe birth injuries with a comfortable, well-supported life?
Life Care Planning
Most birth injury lawyers turn to the services of a Life Care Planner, a professional who will consult with your child’s doctors, along with other medical experts, to understand the medical procedures and on-going care that your child is likely to require. Life care planners take everything into account; their investigations go far beyond medical care.
Alongside doctor’s visits and prescription medications, life care plans account for transportation costs, lost wages, housing needs and assisted living facility expenses. And since we’re trying to estimate living expenses long into the future, most experienced life care planners consult with economists to account for inflation. The majority of life care plans even include a little “padding” to account for medical breakthroughs that could occur in the future for your child’s condition.
After a life care plan is created, it can be presented as evidence at trial, to substantiate a demand for compensation, or as a basis for negotiation in settlement conversations.
How Much Is A Birth Injury Settlement?
There’s no way to predict the settlement or jury verdict value of a birth injury case before getting started. It all depends on your child’s injuries, the treatments they will require and the amount and nature of the liability assessed against your medical care professionals. Those are unique considerations that just can’t be generalized from case to case.
That being said, most birth injury lawsuits involve damage amounts that any normal person would consider astronomical. After all, the point is to make a family who has suffered grievous injury “whole” again. It’s not uncommon for birth injury verdicts to reach $20 million or more.
Medical Malpractice Damages Caps
And if the civil justice system was left alone, the judgments would probably be even higher than that. The majority of states have laws that limit the amount of money plaintiffs are able to secure in medical malpractice lawsuits, including birth injury claims.
These “damages caps” vary in their specifics. Most states only limit non-economic damages, the compensation intended to reimburse families for their unquantifiable losses, like pain and suffering. Most caps of this sort restrict non-economic damage awards to between $250,000 and $800,000, but that’s a big range so be sure to check with your own state laws.
Protecting Your Child’s Money Over The Long-Term
What happens to this money after a settlement or verdict? Your child is still a child, after all, and many kids who suffer birth injuries will have trouble managing their finances later in life.
Courts have adopted several mechanisms to deal with this question, but the most common answer is to use most of the compensation award to fund a “special needs trust.” That’s a trust fund, financed through the proceeds from a personal injury lawsuit, that strikes a balance between protecting your child’s money and supporting their immediate needs.
The settlement money is placed in the trust and invested tax-free, with periodic payments distributed to your child (the trust’s “beneficiary”) to cover their living expenses. A lump-sum is usually set aside right after the judgment to help with pressing financial needs.