Doctors and other medical professionals are supposed to improve patients’ health, but sometimes they make mistakes. When a loved one dies because of negligent medical treatment, known as medical malpractice, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Special rules can apply when your lawsuit is based on medical malpractice, so it is beneficial to speak with a skilled attorney.
When is a wrongful death lawsuit appropriate?
State laws determine who may file a wrongful death lawsuit and when. These laws allow heirs or representatives of the decedent’s estate to bring a claim for compensation against the persons or entities who caused the death.
A wrongful death suit can compensate the surviving family members for damages that they incur. These can include funeral and burial expenses, lost financial support, and loss of care and companionship. Some states may even allow a claim for the decedent’s conscious pain and suffering if their death was not immediate, though California does not allow for this– except in elder abuse situations.
When wrongful death is the result of medical malpractice
Many events– from a slip and fall to a car accident to an assault— can lead to a wrongful death. When the cause is medical malpractice, there are extra rules that apply to a plaintiff for the lawsuit to be valid. These include:
- A special statute of limitations– Medical malpractice and other types of professional negligence often have a shorter filing deadline than other types of wrongful death claims
- Verification of claims before filing–To prevent frivolous claims, a plaintiff may be required to have the validity of the claim substantiated by attaching an affidavit from a medical professional to the complaint or submit the claim for alternative dispute resolution or to a screening panel before initiating the lawsuit
- Presentation of an expert witness– Medical treatment is beyond the experience of the typical juror so plaintiffs need to present expert witnesses who practice in the field at issue– which can explain what a reasonable doctor would have done in a similar situation
- Caps on non-economic damages– In a medical malpractice case, state laws may limit how much a plaintiff may recover for non-economic losses like pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of companionship
The rules that apply to medical malpractice cases can be very technical, so it is important to consult with an attorney if you think you may be entitled to pursue a claim.
How does doctor negligence lead to wrongful death?
When doctors commit malpractice, it often falls within one of several categories:
- Errors in prescribing or administering medication
- Mistakes related to childbirth or pregnancy
- Surgical mistakes
Medical negligence can also be committed by physician’s assistants, nurses, or others in the line of care. When these people make dangerous mistakes while working for a hospital, the hospital may also be legally to blame. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can determine who may be at fault and should be named in your case.
Should I name the hospital in my wrongful death lawsuit?
Hospitals are sometimes named as defendants in wrongful death lawsuits on several grounds:
- A hospital may be liable for the actions of its employees, though many physicians are not employed by the hospital at which they provide care. Therefore the hospital is not legally responsible for their actions as independent contractors
- A hospital may be liable for its actions, including negligent hiring, poor protocols, under-staffing, or improper training
It may or may not be a good strategy to name the hospital in your lawsuit if the malpractice was committed there. Many factors can affect your course of action. Speak with a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer to receive a personalized analysis of your situation.
Contact our team of Los Angeles wrongful death lawyers
If you have lost a loved one due to a doctor’s mistake, schedule a free consultation with Salamati Law. We are here to help you navigate the complex legal system when you need help the most so that you can receive maximum compensation for your loss.