Wrongful death and medical malpractice can occur at the same time, but they are two different legal concepts. Medical malpractice happens when a healthcare professional (e.g., physician, nurse, therapist, or specialist) is negligent and causes a patient harm.
Wrongful death is when the victim dies because of the negligence or wrongful acts.
While it sounds simple enough, the differences become even more complicated when you look further into them.
What Is Medical Malpractice in Louisville Courts?
Medical malpractice happens when a physician is negligent and causes harm to the patient. Anyone working in healthcare can technically be negligent and liable for malpractice.
Examples of medical malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
- Surgical error
- Birth injury
- Nursing home abuse
- Delayed treatment
- Prescription error
What Is a Wrongful Death Case?
Wrongful death is broader and encompasses a variety of negligent acts that cause the death of the victim. Wrongful death can occur from carelessness, wrongful acts, and neglect.
A wrongful death case results from numerous instances, such as:
- Medical malpractice
- Injuries at birth
- Nursing home neglect or abuse
- Car accidents
- Defective devices, medications, or products
- Recalled products
- Recalled or dangerous consumable products
What If Medical Malpractice Causes a Wrongful Death?
Sometimes, medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death. Even though you have clear differences in how the courts define each, these two legal concepts do merge in certain situations.
Who Has the Right to File the Wrongful Death Claim?
The person that files the wrongful death claim must be either a surviving family member or a representative of the estate. To qualify for compensation in a wrongful death case, there must be an applicable party that has the right to file the claim in the first place.
Damages That Can be Received
When a death occurs because of medical negligence, the damages differ than that of an ordinary medical malpractice case. Typically, malpractice cases involved damages of lost wages, medical expenses, disability, and punitive damages (in rare cases).
In a wrongful death case, the estate may seek:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of financial support claims
- Pain and suffering damages
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of nurturing
The types of damages you can receive in a wrongful death claim depends on the evidence, the circumstances of the death, and the state laws. You may have caps on specific damages, including punitive damages, which will limit how much you can collect.
The Statute of Limitations
Just like an ordinary injury claim, you have a statute of limitations for your wrongful death case. In Kentucky, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of death. If you were to pass the one-year mark and not file a claim, you would be unable to collect compensation – regardless of how strong the evidence is against that physician, hospital, or another healthcare provider.
Wrongful Death Must Have a Personal Injury Merit
To file a wrongful death claim, your case must have the merits for a medical malpractice case. That means that if the loved one had lived, they could have filed a claim for malpractice against the responsible party.
Several characteristics are required for a malpractice case to be viable:
- The physician failed to provide the acceptable standard of care. These standards are set by medical professionals and accepted widely by others in similar fields and backgrounds.
- The injury or death stemmed from negligence. You must also show that the medical professional was negligent, and their negligence caused the injury or death. Being unhappy with the outcome or someone who dies from an unrelated incident does not qualify for a wrongful death claim against the medical provider. Instead, you must have a direct correlation between the two.
- The injury or death must result in damages. Damages are what are used to determine compensation for a wrongful death or malpractice case. You must have damages present at a considerable enough value to justify filing the claim.
- Informed consent must not be part of the claim. If the patient gave informed consent and there were risks of injury or death from the procedure, the physician may not be liable for the injury or death. If, however, the patient did not provide informed consent and injury or death occurs, then there may be a malpractice/wrongful death case.
Consulting with an Attorney Is Best
The only way to tell if you have a valid wrongful death or malpractice case against a healthcare provider is to speak with an attorney that specializes in these types of cases.
Attorney Seth Gladstein at the Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, knows what you are doing through, and he can help. He has helped countless families just like yours receive compensation for errors caused by negligent healthcare providers and damages when these errors turn fatal.
Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation now at 502-791-9000 or request more information online.