Undergoing medical procedures is hard and scary enough, let alone the fact that medical errors are probably the third leading cause of death in the United States.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a serious medical issue, then the expertise of medical professionals is something you dearly rely on.
When carelessness leads to a wrongful death, though, you might be the survivor left in the wake wondering what you should do.
If you’re wondering what exactly is a wrongful death suit or how one is begun, then we have some important information to get you on your way.
What is a Wrongful Death Suit?
It sounds simple: a death that shouldn’t have happened.
An important distinction between wrongful death cases and something like murder cases is that “wrongful death” falls under personal injury law.
“But how can someone’s death be considered injury?” you may be asking the screen.
A lawsuit like this is based on the negligence or misconduct of another. It’s not necessarily the same as with criminal cases like murder.
While a wrongful death lawsuit may come out in the aftermath of a criminal case, these types of suits tend to be associated with particular instances, such as:
- Medical malpractice
- Vehicular accidents
- Occupational hazards
- Death during a supervised activity
- and more
For example, if you or a loved one were to have died while flying on a plane, is it possible that the pilot was negligent in handling the aircraft? Therefore, would the plane company also be responsible for hiring the pilot in the first place? Even the fastest jets can be cause of death as well as the slowest.
If your child died while out on a field trip, is it the chaperone, teacher, or another supervisor who was negligent in watching out for and caring for your child? Could it even be the school itself?
Medical malpractice is another common instance. Mistakes happen. If you’re dealing with a very large hospital, it’s not unheard of that a nurse may give the wrong medication to a patient or a surgeon may receive the wrong information leading up to a surgery.
The point is, someone or something is very possibly responsible for the negligence that led to the death in the first place.
Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim?
These claims are made by someone who represents the estate of the one who died.
Who can initiate this claim, though, tends to be different from state to state.
In general, a parent can make a wrongful death claim of their child, a child can of their parents, and an individual can file for their spouse, but it gets trickier when you’re dealing with adults and their adult children or distant family.
Whether the people involved are related or not, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the individual can sue for the wrongful death.
It’s important to check your state’s statutes to understand who can make this kind of claim.
What Comes out of a Wrongful Death Suit?
Grieving for a loved one is consuming. You may need to consider or want to consider what could come out as a result of a wrongful death claim.
It’s important to understand what may have been lost by the death, such as:
- Lost wages
- Lost support
- Lost prospect of inheritance
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- and more
Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and to discourage this type of behavior in the future. Whether or not you are entitled to punitive damages from suing for wrongful death is, again, based on your state.
Regardless, you may be entitled to some of these damages as a result, and whether or not you want to even think about it now, your future self and family may be happy that you did.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Suit?
If you’re mourning the loss of a loved one, it may be difficult to even think about a timeframe.
Time is important in a case like this, though.
As with many claims, including personal injury claims, your state will have a statute of limitations devoted to how long after a wrongful death a claim may be made.
This can still depend on a number of factors, such as which state you are in, who you are claiming as the defendant, and when the death occurred.
How long you have may not necessarily start from when the death occurred, though.
For example, if you’re dealing with medical malpractice, the death of your loved one may have been declared natural. Some time down the line, new evidence may determine that medical malpractice was the real cause of death.
Specific situations like these can change the timeframe in which you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
How to File a Wrongful Death Suit
Based on your state’s statutes and the specific circumstances surrounding the death, you may find that you are eligible to file.
You may not even be the person benefiting from the suit, but you can still possibly file on behalf of them.
As with many cases, you have the right to represent yourself, but as clearly shown there are so many factors that determine whether or not you can even file in the first place.
Not only that but as the one making the wrongful death claim in the first place, the burden of proof falls on you alone.
Being a civil case, the burden of proof for a wrongful death suit is generally less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
It’s typically called “preponderance of the evidence” in this kind of case, which means the proposition being made is more likely to be true than not.
In general, hiring or at least consulting with a wrongful death lawyer, such as Chester Law Group, is strongly advised.
A quality lawyer will already know many of the factors leading up to your case, such as who can file, when you can file, and what will happen when you do file.
More Information on Wrongful Death Cases
Being the survivor of a wrongful death is hard enough.
There is a lot to consider, and your head may not be clear enough to even start the process. Hopefully, the information here gave you a step in the right direction.
If you have more questions or concerns about a wrongful death suit or want to know more legal advice and details, feel free to check out more on our blog.
The loss of any loved one is tragic. Whether it’s due to injury or sickness, death is often a catastrophe. Yet there’s a bitter irony when the cause of death comes from within the hospital, not from outside it.
We’d like to think that in the 21st century, medical error is disappearing. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. In fact, according to a recent analysis published in the BMJ, one of the world’s leading medical publications, medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. That’s why it’s important to understand just what medical error (also known as medical malpractice) is.
According to Martin A. Makary and Michael Daniel of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, medical malpractice is “an unintended act or one that does not achieve its intended outcome.” This can be an error of planning, of execution, or an outright deviation from the proper medical process. In other words, medical malpractice can take many forms, and its effects can be trivial as well as severe.
To illustrate their point, they cite a case history that showcases the role of malpractice in a patient’s death:
A young woman left the hospital after a successful transplant operation, but she suffered from pain and was readmitted to the hospital. Doctors decided to run a variety of tests, many of which were unnecessary, to identify the problem. One of the tests was a pericardiocentesis, which samples fluid from space that surrounds the heart.
She was then released from the hospital and told to wait for the test results. A few days later, the unfortunate young woman checked into the hospital with a hemorrhage and cardiac arrest, and she passed away.
The autopsy showed that the syringe had peirced the skin during the pericardiocentesis slightly hitting the liver, which caused her death. Yet instead of listing the cause of her death as a medical error, the certificate simply blamed it on her cardiovascular system.
We know that medical error happens – after all, mistakes are unavoidable. But just how widespread is it? It’s difficult to identify the exact numbers, partly because “medical error” is never included on a death certificate – this would be too risky for doctors to admit. However, studies from the Harvard Medical School, the US Inspector General, and the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality calculate that anywhere from about 140,000 to 195,000 people die each year because of medical error. What’s more, these studies are likely understating the problem, because of the limited data available to researchers.
Yet even with those understatements, medical error ranks as one of the leading causes of death in this country. Until doctors start including information about medical error on death certificates, it’s up to ordinary patients, and ordinary citizens, to identify cases of malpractice. We need to understand that this problem affects all of us and that each patient must be aware of the possibility that medical malpractice is the true cause of death.
About attorney Scott Sandler:
Scott Sandler is an experienced trial lawyer representing personal injury victims for over 30 years. Founding attorney of The Law Office of Scott M. Sandler, Sandler’s dedicated and forceful approach has allowed him to obtain many multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements.
Visit http://www.scottsandlerlawoffice.com/firm-profile for more information