Losing a loved one, no matter how natural the causes are or how much time you have to prepare, is painful and difficult. When that loved one passes due to neglect from a medical provider, it is even harder to come to terms with your grief and find closure.
A wrongful death is one of the hardest ways to lose someone you care about because you trusted in the medical team to make your loved one healthy again, not cause their passing. Added to that emotional grief is the stress of the paperwork involved and the knowledge that you want whomever was responsible to take accountability for their actions.
This is where legal help can aid you. Finding the right knowledgeable attorney to guide you through the aftermath of a wrongful death will give you the direction you need and assistance with completing necessary paperwork and filing a lawsuit against those who contributed to the loss of your loved one.
What is a Wrongful Death?
The specific definition of a wrongful death is when a patient dies directly from a result of medical malpractice. These types of cases are governed by state law very strictly. Each state has certain procedures that are exclusive only to wrongful death suits, and a knowledgeable attorney, like Lowry & Associates, will know all of the procedures required in their home state.
Although each state’s exact procedures vary, there are many steps that every place has in common. These procedures include the determination of who can file a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased and their estate, who gets appointed to represent the deceased’s estate and how, and the damages that are allowed to be received in such a case.
What to Expect When You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Accusing someone of medical malpractice requires knowledge and almost pinpoint accuracy because there are specific medical malpractice rules in place to ensure that disgruntled patients can’t simply holler “Malpractice!” and get awarded damages.
Your legal representation will be able to help you meet the deadlines and requirements necessary to ensure your wrongful death case goes as smoothly as possible and he or she will strive to avoid giving you undue stress on top of your grief.
However, things that you should be aware of include the following:
- A short statute of limitations is enforced.
- There are many pre-suit requirements: advance notice given, mandatory negotiation attempts, extra filing of specific affidavits, etc.
- You (with your attorney) must be able to obtain expert witnesses from the health care field to testify on your behalf.
- There may be a “damages cap” limiting exactly how much you are entitled to recover.
Your attorney will know how to assist you in proving the health care provider or hospital was negligent (each of these requires different steps, see below). They will also help you to find an expert in the health field who is willing and able to testify on your behalf. You will also need to prove that the health care provider made substandard decisions and that those decisions directly correlated with the death of your loved one.
Then you will need to determine and prove damages by putting a dollar figure on what the decedent’s death cost to their immediate family. This can include the deceased’s income and salary, habits, work ethic, expected life span remaining, and other criteria. Certain states allow other factors to be considered. More on this in detail is listed below.
If your loved one passes wrongfully in a hospital, you may have to prove liability. It may have been direct neglect of the hospital rather than the health care provider.
The issue with determining liability is that a hospital is covered under complex laws and stipulations that make it difficult to prove negligence. Physicians and nurses are usually considered to be independent contractors, which means that any neglect on their part is something the hospital is generally not responsible for.
However, physicians that are directly employed by the hospital and commit negligence in the form of misdiagnoses, prescribing medication or administering it, or errors during surgical procedures, or any other negligence that resulted in a patient’s death, would not be directly liable. Rather, the hospital would be held liable for the wrongful death.
Added to the confusion is the issue of nurse negligence and liability. Nurses can be independent contractors or hospital employees. Negligence due to the actions of a nurse, such as administering the wrong medication, failure to document accurate records, or failure to report symptoms that were suspicious, can also cause wrongful deaths.
With all of this confusion and ambiguity, you will likely need your attorney there to help you muddle through the cloudy waters of determining liability.
Damages and Compensation Allowed in a Wrongful Death Suit
As mentioned earlier, each state has its own determining factors on what compensation the bereaved are entitled to following a wrongful death. However, there are multiple considerations that every state agrees on, including:
- any medical care and related expenses that incurred following the deceased’s injury and death,
- any funeral and burial costs incurred,
- lost wages beginning from the injury and stopping at the time of death,
- amount of support that was lost due to passing,
- amount of services provided by the family,
- benefits to any children for lost inheritance and the value of parental care that was lost.
In addition to these values, other circumstances can allow for additional damages, such as pain and suffering if your loved one suffered from neglectful injuries but survived in pain for an extended period of time, as well as other potential damages. To ensure you are getting all of the compensation that you are entitled to, speak with an expert attorney.
Give Yourself a Break – Get Help With the Stress
Doing everything on your own is never a good idea, but no more so than when you are fighting the uphill battle of a wrongful death lawsuit. If your loved one has passed away due to neglect, find an expert for legal advice in this field and get help with the legalities so you can focus on your personal grief and health, and that of those around you who have also lost someone close to them.