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One of the worst things a person can experience is the loss of a loved one. When that loss is due to the negligence of a medical professional or provider, a wrongful death case against them may be possible.
Although it may seem crass or disrespectful to even think about the legal consequences after the loss of a loved one or family member, the law requires individuals to act in a timely fashion. Particularly when the cause of death is related to potential medical malpractice, rather than ordinary negligence or another attributable cause, such as assault, cases must adhere to strict deadlines and filing requirements.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
Who can actually file a claim for wrongful death varies from state to state. Typically, parents, children, and spouses will have the right to sue. In many states, even more extended family, like grandparents, siblings, and domestic partners, can be allowed to file suit as well.
Additionally, to sue a hospital or medical professional for malpractice related to wrongful death, state laws often require that notice be provided to the professional before a lawsuit can be filed.
Who Can Be Sued for Wrongful Death?
When a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional is negligent and causes the death of a patient, not only can the individual medical professional be held liable, but the hospital and medical group they work for, with, or in, can also be held liable. Every case depends on the specific details of how treatment was provided, and who, or what entity, was responsible for specific duties.
For example, if an infection was caused in a post-surgical patient due to a failure to replace air filters by the hospital's maintenance crew, the hospital itself, rather than individual doctors or nurses, would likely be responsible. Conversely, if a nurse's failure to wash after treating an infection caused another one, then the nurse and employer (which may not be the hospital) could both be liable.
Wrongful Death Damages
Typical damages that are awarded in wrongful death cases include funeral expenses, pain and suffering related to the loss of companionship/relation, medical bills, as well as the loss of income provided by the deceased to the claimants.
Interestingly, medical malpractice cases are often subject to damages caps, which may limit the available award in certain circumstances. However, courts often allow attorneys to pursue multiple legal remedies at the same time, and let the jury decide which one fits better.