Medical malpractice occurs whenever any medical professional, a doctor, a nurse, EMT, or any other professional in the field, provides substandard or inadequate care to a patient that results in additional injury or death. Most often, medical malpractice involves a medical error in the diagnosis or treatment of an issue. One of the most frustrating parts is that the victim is injured beyond what they originally suffered from, causing additional pain and suffering.
Medical malpractice happens for a multitude of reasons. Some medical professionals receive improper training, others move too quickly, some simply make a mistake. Regardless of the cause, you or a loved one have suffered a great deal and that is important. Even worse, medical malpractice could cause the death of a loved one, resulting in your ongoing pain and grief.
If you have lost a loved one because of the negligence, recklessness, or carelessness of a medical professional, you deserve to have experienced legal representation on your side. Medical malpractice is a complex area of law that requires years of knowledge and insight to help you recover compensation. While no amount of money will bring your loved one back, holding the at-fault party liable will bring you some closure and help you to cover the expenses you face for end of life services for your loved one. With the right help, you can collect everything you deserve.
Medical Malpractice Fatalities
Medical malpractice is now the third leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in nearly 100,000 fatalities per year. The tragic part of this is that these deaths are entirely preventable. They happen from human error.
The most common medical malpractice errors which result in death include:
- Missed or improper diagnosis
- Birth injury
- Surgical mistakes
- Prescribing incorrect medicine
- Dispensing incorrect medicine
No matter what caused your loved one’s death, you and they were expecting the medical professionals to help them get better. Instead, your loved one lost their life because of the carelessness of a doctor.
You deserve every opportunity to hold them accountable for their actions that directly caused the loss of your loved one. Your life is now forever changed and your life will have a hole in it because your loved one was taken from you. Your best chance to hold the doctor liable for your loved one’s death is by working with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can help guide you through a complex wrongful death claim.
Proving a Medical Professional Caused Death
To prove medical malpractice caused a death, you must first bring a wrongful death claim in court. This requires detailed information about the negligent behavior that caused your loved one’s death. Filing a wrongful death claim may even require the use of experts to help provide accurate medical information in your filing. This is where the knowledge and skill of a wrongful death attorney can prove invaluable.
When filing a wrongful death claim against the medical professional or facility that caused your loved one’s death, your filing must show:
- The facility or doctor had a duty of care to provide proper and accurate medical care to your loved one.
- The facility or doctor failed to provide your loved one with proper care, straying from a reasonable standard of care in the medical field.
- The doctor or facility’s failure to provide proper care resulted in your loved one’s death.
Because of all of this, you may face financial hardship. When someone dies unexpectedly, they may leave behind unpaid bills that need to be addressed. You may be the one who has to deal with the payment of these bills.
While you can use the money from your loved one’s estate, there may be other costs associated with your loved one’s death, including:
- Final medical services
- Medical transportation
- Funeral costs
- Burial costs
- Final tax returns
All of these items can be dealt with through your loved one’s estate. To bring a proper wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania, the personal representative of the estate must become the plaintiff. In a regular medical malpractice claim, the person who suffered injuries brings the claim against the negligent party. Because your loved one unfortunately cannot bring such a claim, the personal representative for your loved one’s estate must bring the wrongful death claim.
While the personal representative of the estate is the one to formally bring the wrongful death claim, they are not the individual or the only individual who might benefit from a positive result. The wrongful death claim is brought on behalf of all of the decedent’s beneficiaries and any amounts recovered will become part of the estate and distributed accordingly.
Sometimes, wrongful death could include criminal activity. In this instance, a criminal action might be filed by the prosecutor against the negligent party. But do not confuse this criminal action with a wrongful death action. The criminal action, even if successful, may not provide you with adequate compensation to cover the expenses necessary. The only way to attempt to recover every dollar you need is by filing a wrongful death claim with the guidance of a seasoned medical malpractice lawyer.
Collecting damages in a wrongful death action is different than in a medical malpractice claim where the patient survives. While successful medical malpractice claims pay proceeds to injury victims, a wrongful death claim instead pays any funds to the decedent’s estate.
Because of this, you may want to know what damages your lawyer might try to collect for you:
- Funeral expenses
- Hospital bills
- Final medical expenses
- Estate administration expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits
- Lost financial support
- Pain and suffering
If you are a surviving spouse or child, some of these damages may apply directly to you. Loss of financial support and lost wages are important compensation for family members to attempt to recover. These damages can help shoulder the financial burden associated with the loss of a family member, especially a breadwinning family member. These specific damages, however, are only available to surviving spouses, children, or parents.
Other damages such as funeral expenses and final medical bills are general expenses that the estate’s personal representative will attempt to collect. If successful, this helps to ensure that the estate does not have to pay for those bills, instead holding the negligent medical professional accountable for covering those costs. This also helps to ensure the heirs of the deceased receive the full amount as beneficiaries instead of missing out on some bequests because of excessive bills.
What many surviving loved ones fail to account for is the lost income from an untimely death. Unfortunately, this often results in family members having to take on additional work, miss out on education, or suffer other financial hardships because one family member is no longer around to contribute to the financial health of the family.
This is an important part to consider when bringing a wrongful death claim and why using the services of a respected wrongful death attorney can help you succeed in your claim. Your ability to recover for the lost income of your loved one can help ease the financial burden on your family not only as you go through the grieving process but also through the remainder of your life. If your loved one was younger, the recoverable amount could prove substantial.
An actuary can help determine the value of the lost income and how that might impact your life going forward. Aligning with a trusted wrongful death lawyer could help you get the guidance and expertise from an actuary that you need to help show how much the death of your loved one will negatively impact your financial well being.
Most personal injury and wrongful death claims, including those that stem from medical malpractice, settle out of court. In many cases, parties come to terms before trial, saving both time and headache. But this does not mean that getting to a settlement is easy. In fact, it can be challenging and nerve-wracking.
Soon after the death of your loved one, the insurance company representing the doctor, nurse, or medical facility may contact you. Many people in your situation find comfort in this, thinking they can put this part of their life behind them and focus on what’s next. Unfortunately, what many people like you eventually find out is that they settled for less money than they needed.
Once you sign the settlement, you waive your right to bring any future claims against the insurance company for your loved one’s death. This means you could end up not only missing out on inheritance that could help you but you may also end up having to shoulder some of the financial burden associated with your loved one’s death.
Do not let this happen to you. The insurance company does not have your best interests at heart. In fact, they just want to settle your wrongful death claim for as little as possible and walk away. Your goals are to make sure the at-fault party is held accountable for your loved one’s death but also to collect compensation so you do not face financial hardship because of someone else’s negligence.
When you work with a wrongful death lawyer who has experience standing up to the big insurance companies, you can give yourself the best chance of settling for a fair and reasonable amount that does not leave you in financial hardship.
In Pennsylvania, you only have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to bring a wrongful death claim. Two years might seem like a long time. However, when you are grieving and suffering the loss of your loved one, filing a wrongful death claim will not be at the front of your mind. You may let the time slip by and, if you miss this deadline, there is no going back.
That’s why it is so important to speak with an experienced medical malpractice wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Not only can your lawyer help you get started with opening the estate, they can also provide guidance and direction on the wrongful death claim. While your lawyer is dealing with the legal complexities, that frees you and your family up to spend time together and grieve. Releasing this burden to your lawyer can be a great relief, allowing you the opportunity to focus on what really matters.
The Right Lawyer Can Help You
Not all law firms are created equal and you should not trust just any lawyer with guiding you in this most complex area of law. Because of the challenges surrounding medical malpractice, your lawyer may need to speak with experts in the medical field to better understand your situation. That helps with your initial wrongful death filing, making it more likely the insurance company will start negotiating from a better place, a place that will help get you the compensation you deserve.
Your lawyer will need time to not only collect information from you but also review medical records, speak with medical experts and actuaries, open your loved one’s estate, and prepare your initial wrongful death claim filing. Depending on a lawyer in this way takes a great deal of trust. That’s why you need to choose a lawyer with experience in medical malpractice wrongful death claims. But choose a lawyer with trial experience.
While your lawyer should try to settle your case, insurance companies sometimes refuse to settle for a fair and reasonable amount. When this happens, your medical malpractice lawyer may need to take your wrongful death claim to trial to hold the at-fault party liable for your loved one’s death and collect the compensation you deserve.
Not every lawyer is capable of handling this level of complexity. Do your due diligence and work with a lawyer who has your best interests at heart. If you have lost a loved one from medical malpractice, contact a trusted wrongful death lawyer today.