Medical errors and wrongful deaths have a lot more in common than you might realize.
Medical errors are currently the third leading cause of death in the United States – and one medical professionals prefer to keep hidden.
One Johns Hopkins study found that over 250,000 patients die each year from preventable medical errors. Other reports estimate that number to be over 400,000.
With those numbers, medical errors come in third behind cancer and heart disease. Now, Johns Hopkins researchers are asking the Centers for Disease Control to change how they collect data from death certificates since these studies rely heavily on the CDC’s data. Right now, death certificates do not always indicate medical errors; instead, they focus on the cause of death rather than what might lie behind the cause.
Despite the requests to change data collection, the CDC has not updated their collection methods. Due to how the CDC currently collects death data, it is likely that the number of medical error-related deaths is much higher than what Johns Hopkins was able to find.
Regardless of how high the real number might be, families have rights when their loved ones die due to preventable medical errors.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Medical Malpractice: What Every Louisville Patient Should Know
If a patient dies from medical negligence, the family members of the deceased might qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit against the physician, hospital, or healthcare provider.
Wrongful death lawsuits are cases that occur after a person dies as a result of negligence or malpractice. These lawsuits do not apply to all deaths, and not all deaths are wrongful. State laws are strict as to what constitutes wrongful death and what does not.
In Kentucky, a wrongful death action is defined as one that results in the death of a person from an injury caused by negligence or wrongful acts of another person.
Ultimately, the individual who died would have been able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party if they had not died because of their injuries. In the case of medical negligence, the patient (had they survived the illness or injury stemming from the error) would file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician or other healthcare provider. Because that patient died before they could do so, family members are then allowed by law to file a claim on behalf of the estate.
Was It Malpractice?
To have a valid wrongful death case, an attorney would need to determine if there was a malpractice claim in the first place.
Medical malpractice comes from a physician, nurse, hospital, or another medical professional that provided below the standard of professional care in their selected field. It might result in a patient’s injury, illness, or death.
Common malpractice cases involve:
- Misdiagnosis of an Illness or Condition: The patient’s diagnosis might be wrong from the start, meaning the real condition or illness is allowed to continue until it becomes fatal. Likewise, a patient might be misdiagnosed with an illness they do not have, and the treatment for that illness they did not have led to their death.
- Surgical Errors: Operating on the wrong part of the body, operating on the wrong patient, leaving foreign objects inside the patient after surgery, postoperative infections, and other injuries stemming from negligent surgical procedures.
- Medication Errors: Medication errors include everything from prescribing the wrong medication, prescribing the wrong dose, administering the wrong drug or dosage, or injuries caused during anesthesia.
- Childbirth Injuries: These injuries include everything from prenatal treatments to the delivery itself. It might involve the death or injury of the child, the mother, or both.
When Malpractice Causes Death
Medical malpractice and wrongful death claims are very different from a legal standpoint, but one can feed into another. When these concepts merge, it is vital that family members consult with an attorney that not only has experience with wrongful death actions, but also is well versed in medical malpractice – as they will need to argue both in their case.
What Damages Can Loved Ones Receive?
When death occurs from medical negligence, the compensation might be different than what would be received in a traditional malpractice lawsuit. The damages will depend on state laws and the unique circumstances of the death and injury.
Some compensation family members might receive in a Kentucky wrongful death claim can include:
- Pre-death medical costs
- Funeral and/or burial expenses
- Lost wages, financial support, and/or benefits
- Loss of spousal love, support, and companionship
- Loss of parental love, support, and companionship (for children up to age 18)
Limitations on Damages
Kentucky allows for punitive damages for cases involving medical malpractice. Punitive damages, however, only apply if there is gross negligence, or a wanton or reckless disregard for the patient’s safety. Rarely will you see punitive damages in a medical malpractice case.
Factors Considered When Determining Compensation Amounts
Courts and juries will consider several factors when deciding how much compensation the estate might be entitled to. The amount one case might receive can be widely different from another family’s award. The factors the court assess include:
- How much money did the deceased earn from their job and how much would they have earned in their working lifetime?
- How much did family members pay in medical costs for the injury?
- How much did family members pay for funeral and burial expenses?
Kentucky does not have damage caps on wrongful death claims.
Speak with a Lawyer
When a loved one dies because of a fatal, preventable medical error, you feel betrayed.
You go to physicians and hospitals because you trust that they will do their best to make you and your loved one feel better. When carelessness or reckless behaviors cause fatal errors, you should hold that provider accountable for their actions and prevent them from tearing apart another family.
If you suspect that your loved one died because of medical negligence, speak with attorney Seth Gladstein at Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, today.
Receive a no-obligation consultation now by calling 502-791-9000 or request more information online.