Understanding important distinctions between different types of personal injury claims can give you vital insight into how specific legal concepts may apply in your case. If you’ve lost a loved one and believe it was due to medical malpractice, there may be several avenues you can pursue to recover compensation. Typically, attorneys at medical malpractice law firms are also experienced in handling wrongful death claims. They can help you understand the differences and advise you of your options.
Medical Malpractice vs. Wrongful Death
Just because someone passed-away while under the care of a medical professional does not mean that their death warrants a wrongful death action. Knowing the definitions of medical malpractice and wrongful death can help you recognize whether you may have a cause of action after the death of a loved one.
Medical malpractice happens when a health care professional fails to provide a reasonable standard of care, and a patient is injured or killed as a direct result. Medical providers may include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals and health systems.
Some examples of medical malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
- Surgical or anesthesia errors
- Medication errors
- Birth injuries
Wrongful death occurs when a person dies as the result of an individual’s or entity’s negligence or misconduct. A wrongful death claim can arise from a variety of circumstances, including medical malpractice, car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and other situations.
Damages Available in Each Type of Claim
A significant difference between medical malpractice and wrongful death claims is the type of damages you may recover. Many states also put limits on the dollar amount of damages that may be recovered in a medical malpractice claim. If you want to be compensated for funeral and burial expenses and loss of future income, inheritance, companionship, guidance, care, and mental anguish due to your loved one’s death, you must file a wrongful death claim. Before filing any kind of claim, it is always a good idea to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.
What is a Survival Action?
When someone dies as the result of medical malpractice, their loved ones or estate may be able to bring a survival action against a negligent medical provider. A survival claim is for the damages your deceased loved one suffered. This may include medical bills and any pain and suffering they experienced from the time the negligent act occurred until the time of their death. In essence, pursuing a survival action is like bringing a medical malpractice claim on behalf of your loved one.
Which Type of Claim Should You File?
It can be confusing to determine which type of claim is appropriate in your case. In some states, only the personal representative of a person’s estate can bring medical malpractice or wrongful death claims on the family’s behalf. Settlement caps and statutes of limitations for medical malpractice claims and wrongful death actions may be different as well, so it is important to act fast if you believe your loved one’s death was caused by medical negligence. An accident injury lawyer can determine whether you have a viable claim and advise you of possible options for recovering compensation.