What Is the Difference between Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

by | Published on Aug 10, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice vs. wrongful death claim – what are the essential differences between the two? This is a common doubt many people have regarding these two types of claims. Personal injury lawyers handle both types of cases and benefit from medical review service to understand the medical facts involved. Since these types of cases are rather intricate, the assistance of an experienced attorney is vital for plaintiffs. Many factors apply when it comes to determining whether the injured party has a case, such as what actually happened, the actual injury or illness and how it was treated, whether the plaintiff followed the doctor’s instructions, and so on.

Medical malpractice occurs when a physician or other clinical professional is negligent and as a result a patient is harmed. Wrongful death occurs when a person dies as a direct result of the negligence, carelessness, wrongful act, or a lack of action of another person, including a physician.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice cases arise from the negligent acts of healthcare providers such as doctors, surgeons, nurses, midwives, hospital staff, or pharmacists. Such negligence could result in serious injury, illness, or death to the patient. If the negligence did not result in death, the patient would have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit only. On the other hand, if the healthcare provider’s negligence resulted in the death of the patient, the surviving family members could sue for both medical malpractice and wrongful death.

As a provider of medical records services to medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys, we understand that a medical malpractice case could arise out of any of the following:

  • Wrong diagnosis or failure to diagnose
  • Surgical errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Birth injuries
  • Delayed treatment
  • Medication errors
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Poor patient care
  • Lack of consent

Medical malpractice could occur at the stages of diagnosis, treatment or follow-up care. Typically, to be considered as a medical malpractice case, the claim must demonstrate that

  • There was a violation of the standard of care
  • The injury was caused by the provider’s negligence
  • The injury resulted in significant damages

Wrongful Death

Wrongful death occurs when the negligence or wrongful act of one person results in the death of another. Medical malpractice deals with specific cases of medical negligence, whereas wrongful death cases are caused by a variety of reasons such as the following:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Automobile accidents caused by someone’s negligence
  • Nursing home abuse or negligence
  • Defective medical devices
  • Assault
  • Recalled or dangerous vehicles/food items
  • Industrial accidents
  • Intentional or negligent homicide

Differences between Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Claims

In most U.S. states, these are two different types of lawsuits with different rules and regulations.

  • A statute of limitations exists for filing a wrongful death claim, which in most states is two years from the date of the injured person’s death. Legal action may be impossible once this period has passed. In a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff has three years from the date of injury or one year from the date of discovery.
  • A medical malpractice claim can typically be filed by any patient with injuries caused by an alleged medical malpractice action. A wrongful death case can be filed only by family members of the deceased victim, for e.g. spouse, domestic partner, or surviving child. In case the deceased doesn’t have any surviving family member, any person who was dependent on the person may file.
  • There may be differences in the damages available in these cases. There may be financial caps that are specific to the type of damage sought, the type of lawsuit, and the limits established by individual state law. In a medical malpractice case, damages can include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and lost quality of life. In a wrongful death lawsuit, damages could also include emotional distress, loss of consortium (comfort, companionship, and love), loss of guidance or nurturing (which some states allow for children of the deceased person) and funeral expenses.

Since wrongful death can result from medical malpractice also, only an experienced attorney can determine whether a case involving medical negligence should be filed as a medical malpractice lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit to ensure the best outcome for the victim’s family or dependents. Given the complexity and challenges involved in a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit, attorneys handling these cases prefer to utilize a reliable medical review service to have a clear understanding of the medical facts. This makes it easier not only to compile the extensive medical evidence that is vital to develop the case but also have the right perspective regarding the case.

Disclaimer: The content in this blog has been sourced from reliable internet resources and is meant for informative purposes only. It is not meant as professional legal advice. For a professional opinion, consult a qualified and experienced attorney.

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