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In med mal cases, lost future earnings can be a big issue

The death of a young adult due to medical malpractice is tragic for many reasons. Among them is the fact that the victim should have had many decades of life left. There are more important ways to measure the lost potential, such as children they will never have or experiences they will no longer be able to share with friends and family.

But lost future earnings is a more objective way to calculate what a medical malpractice victim might have accomplished in his or her life if a doctor or nurse had not negligently caused his or her death prematurely. Depending on the victim’s age, education and job prospects, among other things, this figure can reach the millions of dollars, and can be awarded to the victim’s next of kin.

An award of $14.2 million in damages, including $10 million in lost future earnings, was recently upheld by an appellate court in another state. The victim in the case was a 24-year-old man who died while being treated for a growth on his brain.

He was in the hospital overnight, awaiting surgery when a nurse noticed that one of his pupils had become fixed and dilated, a sign that his condition had grown worse and that he needed emergency surgery. The nurse called the neurosurgeon, but no emergency operation took place in time. The patient slipped into life support, and two operations failed to save him.

After a pair of trials, the victim’s family was awarded a total of $14.2 million in damages, most of which was for lost future earnings. The victim was just 24 when he died and worked as an accountant. On appeal, the court upheld the judgment and rejected the hospital’s contention that the second trial should have been about more than measuring the lost earnings.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Court upholds $14.2 million judgment against UPMC,” Robert Zullo, Nov. 4, 2013

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