How to Recognize a Patient’s Wrongful Death

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Despite the safety procedures and studies performed to learn about medical errors, there are thousands of patients who still die as a result of medical malpractice each and every year.

If negligent medical care from a healthcare provider has resulted in the death of your loved one, you might be able to pursue a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. Wrongful death claims are allowable in all 50 states and allow for representatives or heirs of an individual who dies from a negligent or wrongful act to recover compensation from those who are responsible for the loss of life.

Wrongful Death Claims Vary by State

Individual states have survivor and wrongful death statutes to compensate immediate relatives or heirs for their family member’s death. The compensation may include damages for lost financial support, the pain and suffering experienced by the decedent before death, funeral costs and any other losses depending on the context of the case and the state’s statute.

The exact damages your family can claim vary significantly from one state to another. In California, a wrongful death claim doesn’t allow you to recover compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering before their death unless they were the victim of elder abuse. Medical malpractice attorneys in Los Angeles are familiar with California laws and will know how to proceed with your specific situation.

Who Can Be Sued For a Patient’s Wrongful Death?           

Any healthcare provider who acted negligently and whose conduct was a “substantial factor” in causing a plaintiff’s death may be sued for the wrongful death of a patient. In all wrongful death cases, a defendant must be shown to be at fault for the untimely death of the patient. When the wrongful death claim is against the healthcare provider, any rules applicable to medical malpractice claims also apply to the wrongful death claim.

When claiming that an act or acts of medical malpractice caused a patient’s wrongful death, you must prove that the alleged medical misconduct did occur. All applicable state medical malpractice rules apply equally to wrongful death cases as they do to malpractice cases.  Unfortunately, in some states like California, claims for wrongful death against a medical provider are limited by the same draconian MICRA law that applies in medical malpractice cases which limits the compensation available to victims.  These medical malpractice rules were enacted to make suing a healthcare provider more challenging in comparison to other injury claims against a traditional or regular defendant.  Amazingly, when a wrongful death action is filed against anyone other than a health care provider (such as a driver, or employer, or any other individual or entity), these limitations on damages do not apply.

Some unique limitations and procedures apply to wrongful death claims against health care providers, including:

  • The requirement for testimony from expert witnesses with experience in a specific healthcare field on behalf of either party.
  • A short statute of limitations.
  • Pre-suit requirements, such as screening panels, advance lawsuit notice, mandatory negotiations for a settlement, and/or the filing of an affidavit of merit.
  • A damages cap, which limits the total amount a plaintiff can recover from a healthcare provider

If medical malpractice caused the premature loss of your loved one, medical malpractice attorneys in Los Angeles are available to help you and your family. Call the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. at (310) 289-2600 for a free case evaluation today.

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