Wrongful Death or Medical Malpractice: Which Claim to Pursue?

No pain can compare to the loss of a loved one. However, a medical malpractice death adds an additional layer of complexity. You suspect you have the right to sue, but what kind of claim can you file? Wrongful death or medical malpractice? Or perhaps both? Here’s a quick guide to these important legal claims.

Pursuing justice after wrongful death.

Difference Between Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice Claims

Wrongful death and medical malpractice claims are two different legal concepts that pertain to different situations. But they can overlap in certain cases. The main difference is that a medical malpractice claim seeks damages for negligence related to medical care. But wrongful death claims seek damages for a death that resulted from any kind of negligence. 

A medical malpractice claim can involve wrongful death. However, not every wrongful death case involves medical malpractice. 

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim is a legal action brought by the surviving family members or beneficiaries of a person who has died as a result of another party’s negligent or intentional actions. The goal is to hold the responsible party accountable for the death, and recover damages on behalf of the deceased person’s estate and surviving family members.

Wrongful death cases can arise from many different circumstances, such as:

These cases are civil cases, not criminal ones. They apply to any situation where someone’s negligence or intentional actions caused the death of another person.

If you want to file a wrongful death claim for a family member, you need to prove that the defendant’s actions or negligence directly caused the death of the victim. You can seek damages on behalf of surviving family members or beneficiaries of the deceased person. These damages can include:

Widow mourns death of her husband.

What is a medical malpractice claim?

Medical malpractice claims are a subset of personal injury claims. They involve healthcare workers who provide substandard care that results in harm, injury, or death to a patient. These claims allege that the medical provider breached the standard of care owed to the patient, leading to the patient’s injury or death. 

How might a provider breach the standard of care? Here are some examples:

  • Failing to diagnose an illness
  • Misreading diagnostic tests
  • Failing to treat a patient for a condition
  • Medication errors (such as giving the wrong medicine or too much medicine)
  • Operating on the wrong body part or the wrong patient 

To file a medical malpractice claim, you have to establish the following:

  • The healthcare provider’s actions or omissions were negligent. This means they deviated from the accepted standard of care.
  • The provider’s negligence was the direct cause of the patient’s injuries or death. 

You can seek both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include things you can put a dollar amount on, like medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages cover pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and other types of harm that don’t involve money. 

Filing a Claim for Medical Malpractice Death

Medical malpractice sometimes results in a person’s death. If this happens to your loved one,  you may be able to file both wrongful death and medical malpractice claims. 

Let’s look at an example. A two-year-old child recovering from cancer goes in for her last day of chemotherapy. However, the pharmacy technician filled the intravenous bag with more than 20 times the recommended dose of sodium chloride. The child ends up on life support before anyone catches the mistake, and dies three days later. 

This is an instance of medical malpractice death, so the toddler’s parents could file two different

claims. The first is a medical malpractice suit. The family might claim damages for all the bills they had to pay from the time the negligence occurred up until the time of death. These could include life support and any other interventions that doctors used to try to save the child’s life. 

Since the child passed away, a wrongful death claim is also possible. She had been declared cancer-free right before her last chemo session, so presumably, she had a long life ahead of her. Because of this fact, the payout could be quite large.

Settlement for wrongful death malpractice lawsuit.

How Much Can I Recover for Wrongful Death/Medical Malpractice?

The amount of money you can recover in wrongful death/medical malpractice claims varies widely. It depends on many factors, including:

  • The amount of medical expenses 
  • Lost earnings (this calculation depends on age, occupation, life expectancy, and more)
  • Amount of funeral expenses and other expenses
  • The extent of suffering and the impact on quality of life
  • Whether or not your jurisdiction puts a cap on non-economic damages

After a medical malpractice death, the last thing families are thinking about is money. No dollar amount can truly compensate for their loss. What a payout can do is ensure your debts are paid. Your family can get access to therapy to help alleviate emotional suffering. It also helps prevent similar cases of medical malpractice death from happening again. If your loved one died as a result of medical malpractice, give us a call. We’re ready to listen, answer your questions, and use our legal expertise and experience to obtain the compensation you need and deserve.