Damages in a medical malpractice case are no different from those in a typical personal injury case. A plaintiff is entitled to recover both general and special damages. General damages, obviously, include compensation for physical and mental pain and suffering, both past and future, as well as a diminished capacity to work, labor, and earn money. These are elements encompassed in the definition of pain and suffering as well.
Because pain and suffering is considered an element of general damages, it is awarded to a plaintiff to compensate for non-pecuniary losses and hardships whether mental, physical, or both. The measure of such damages is the enlightened conscious of fair and impartial jurors. Roberts v. Chapman, 228 Ga. App. 365, 492 S.E. 2d 144 (1997). If a plaintiff can show that he or she will likely continue to suffer physical and mental pain as a result of injuries into the future, then the jury may award damages for future pain and suffering. Bennett v. Haley, 132 Ga. App. 512, 208 S.E. 2d 302 (1974). Again, a plaintiff’s diminished capacity to labor and earn money is an additional element of general damages which can be included in a pain and suffering award. Baxter v. Bryan, 122 Ga. App. 817, 178 S.E. 2d 724 (1970).
Special damages in a medical malpractice case can be extensive. If malpractice occurs and a plaintiff is hospitalized for weeks, if not months (and we have had cases where the plaintiff was hospitalized for over a year) the medical expenses can be extraordinary. Such damages, of course, are deemed to be special damages under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-2. Special damages include medical expenses, past, present and future, lost wages, future earnings and lost profits.