A jury in Cook County has awarded a $14.3 million verdict to the parents of a child born in 2004 with severe brain injuries, who passed away in 2007 after three years of living in a vegetative state. According to a local news report, the award came after the parents filed a second case based upon their child's death, suing the insurance company that represented the medical providers in the first trial on the issue, which was held in May 2009.
In this second action, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant insurance company acted in bad faith in convincing the doctors into taking the malpractice case to trial in 2009 instead of settling for the amount of their insurance coverage. As a result of the first trial, the parents were awarded $6.2 million from the defendants, $1.4 million of which was in excess of the malpractice insurance policy limits and they never received.
Had the Insurance Company Acted in Good Faith, the Parents Would Have Settled for the Policy Limit and Avoided Trial
According to the article's explanation of the ruling, the jury found that the insurance company misled the doctors by refusing to attempt to negotiate a settlement in good faith and failing to describe the true policy limits of the insurance coverage to the doctors. The deceptive actions by the insurance company resulted in the doctors being left with a financial obligation that they could not afford and would not pay, and they forced the family to undergo two difficult and unnecessary trials over 11 years to receive what was due to them. The family sought the $1.4 million in excess damages that were over the doctor's policy limits, and they were also awarded over $10 million in punitive damages against the insurance company, based on their bad faith actions.
Compensatory Damages vs. Punitive Damages
The $10+ million punitive damages award against the insurance company was awarded to the family in addition to the $6.4 million in economic and noneconomic damages that were awarded to them as compensation for the doctors' negligence in the initial trial. Punitive damages are awarded to punish bad-faith behavior by a party who should know better, as well as to discourage other parties from acting in such a way in the future. When parties such as insurance companies act deceptively and violate their duties to doctors and patients regarding a malpractice claim, the integrity of the medical and legal professions is threatened, and courts should do whatever is in their statutory authority to vindicate the victims of deception and hold the responsible parties liable. Punitive damages provide a method for judges and juries to encourage insurance companies to act in good faith or face expensive consequences.
Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice Resulting in a Birth Injury?
If you or a family member suspects that medical malpractice has resulted in the delivery of a child with a birth injury, the qualified Chicago medical malpractice and birth injury attorneys at the Cavanagh Law Group can help with your case. Our experienced Chicago birth injury attorneys make sure our clients have strong legal advice, and we are respected in the field for holding bad faith actors accountable for their behavior. Discussing your case won't cost a penny, and at the Cavanagh Law Group, we focus our practice on birth injuries and medical malpractice so that you can be confident that your case is being handled correctly. Contact the qualified Illinois birth injury attorneys at Cavanagh Law Group today.