When someone you love dies suddenly as a result of a medical professional's mistake or negligence, your entire life can turn upside down. Not only do you have to cope with a torrent of grief and anguish, you also have to make the difficult decision whether or not to file a medical malpractice wrongful death claim to pursue compensation for damages. Understanding what constitutes medical malpractice and wrongful death claims, and what types of compensation are available to survivor claimants—as well as consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney—can help you decide how to proceed.
What Makes a Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Case?
Some people mistakenly assume that medical malpractice is an instance in which a patient receives a poor outcome during a medical treatment or procedure, particularly when a positive outcome was expected. However, that isn't necessarily the case. In order to be considered medical malpractice, a patient must have received substandard care that resulted in a grave mistake that caused serious injury or death.
The fact that a poor outcome occurred, or that a mistake or error was committed by a medical professional isn't enough—on its own—to make a medical malpractice case alone. To have an actionable medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must be able to show that the medical professional in question behaved carelessly or negligently. If an equivalently trained doctor would have made the same calls when faced with a similar situation, the case is unlikely to be considered medical malpractice. Likewise, if a mistake or error occurred, but it did not cause injury to the patient, a medical malpractice lawsuit is unlikely to be successful.
However, if a claim does meet the criteria for medical malpractice and the patient died as a result of that negligent care, the decedent's survivors—such as his or her spouse, domestic partner, or children—can file a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit to pursue compensation for damages related to the loss of their loved one.
Types of Compensation for Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Claimants
Generally speaking, there are two types of compensation available to survivor claimants who win their medical malpractice wrongful death claim: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Wrongful death plaintiffs who were financially dependent on the decedent can pursue a monetary award for economic damages, such as:
- Funeral and burial experiences
- The value of support that the survivor will lose as a result of their loved one's untimely death; spouses can seek compensation that's the equivalent of the support they would have received during the decedent's life expectancy, while minor children can seek compensation equivalent to the support they would have received until reaching adulthood
- The value of gifts the survivor would have received from the decedent during the decedent's life
- The value of household services provided by the decedent, such as cooking, cleaning, or making household repairs
Survivor claimants can also pursue compensation for non-economic damages, such as:
- The loss of the decedent's love, affection, companionship, assistance, moral support, and care or protection
- The loss of sexual relations the surviving spouse or domestic partner enjoyed with the decedent
- The loss of training, mentorship, and guidance a surviving child or other minor would have received from the decedent
The amount claimants receive for such non-economic damages is decided by a judge or jury, and can vary dramatically.
Do You Need Help Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Claim?
California's medical malpractice laws can make it difficult for plaintiffs to be victorious in their lawsuits. If you believe you have a strong medical malpractice wrongful death claim, securing the representation of a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney is likely to give you the best chance of receiving the fair financial award you need and deserve.
Contact the Inland Empire Law Group today for a no-cost, no-obligation evaluation of your medical malpractice wrongful death claim. We have offices in Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville, and our skilled team of attorneys is standing by to answer your questions and address any concerns you may have.