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What is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death?

Power Trial Lawyers, P.C.

You cannot put a price on the life of a loved one. Death is tragic in all forms, but it hurts more when we know that it could have been prevented.

Medical mistakes account for more than 250,000 deaths every single year; this is according to a recent scientific survey. So, while it may not provide much comfort, you are far from alone. However, not all these deaths constitute malpractice or even wrongful death.

Hospital Room

Filing a lawsuit against a healthcare provider for malpractice or wrongful death can be tricky. There are certain protections exist for healthcare workers that make suing providers a complex affair.

The best way to see if you have cause to bring a suit is to reach out to a legal professional. Knowledgeable firms like Power Trial Lawyers will best understand the options that are available to you.

Let’s go over the different types of claims, what is required for each type, and the circumstances under which they may be appropriate.

What is Malpractice?

Malpractice occurs as the result of disastrous action or inaction on behalf of a medical professional. This means that they either ignored or intentionally disregarded the correct action, which is difficult to prove. Courts require evidence of:

  • Negligence – It isn’t enough to prove that a doctor made a mistake. Negligence requires proof that the healthcare provider caused harm through their failure to perform their duties. This negligent action must be directly related to the death of, or injury to, the patient.
  • Unorthodox Care – Somewhere along the line, the doctors, nurses, or hospital staff disregarded the appropriate medical standards.
  • Damages – There must be some obvious damages as a result of the provider’s actions. In cases of death, the damages are clear.

Even without a resultant death, a malpractice case can be successful if the medical mistakes have debilitating outcomes, such as the loss of a livelihood, a significantly lower quality of life, or a disability.

If there is sufficient evidence of negligence, unorthodox care, and damages, the malpractice case will likely be strong. That said, much of the case hinges on negligence. Without negligent action, unorthodox care doesn’t apply, and courts consider the damages to be unrelated.

Negligence is a complex concept. Any time a doctor acts in a harmful way, or fails to act in a helpful way, there’s a potential for a finding of negligence.

Examples of negligence include:

  • The prescribing of incorrect medication or treatment;
  • The performance of unnecessary surgery;
  • The performance of surgery on a wrong or unafflicted area;
  • The discharging of patients prior to the completion of care; and
  • Failure to complete the proper tasks required for care. This includes not ordering diagnostic tests and not taking a patient’s history into account.

The majority of claims are made due to misdiagnosis.

The statute of limitations for malpractice claims is one and a half years after the act. This means that those affected must begin the legal process before that time or they will have no recourse.

If the results of malpractice do not present themselves until a long time after the treatment, the statute of limitations will likely be calculated from when the issue presents itself.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a civil action against the liable party of a loved one’s death. In cases of medical malpractice resulting in death, it may be appropriate to file both charges.

Wrongful death suits are not limited to medical professionals and can apply in many circumstances. These can include car crashes, defective products, homicides, workplace accidents, and police shootings.

The difference between wrongful death and medical malpractice is that there must, of course, be a death in the case of wrongful death.

To claim a wrongful death, your case must meet two basic criteria:

  1. Negligence or wrongdoing must have played a role in the death. This standard for negligence is slightly lower than it is for malpractice as it can apply to anyone.
  2. The affected party must be a surviving family member or dependent of the deceased. This is commonly a spouse, child, or another family member.

Since it is easier to make these cases, they are more common. The statute of limitations is two years.

Different Filing Rules

While it is common to file these two actions together, it’s important to understand the distinctions between the two.

The first difference is that the statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years.

There are also different rules regarding who can file them. In a malpractice case, anyone with injuries can file a case against their healthcare provider. In the case of wrongful death, a suit can only be filed by someone directly related to the deceased who has a connection to their estate.

The level of compensation is also different between the two types of cases. In a wrongful death suit, there is no limit to the compensation allowed. In a malpractice suit there is a $250,000 limit.

Wrongful death suits typically include funeral expenses and the “loss of consortium,” a term that refers to the pain of losing a family relationship.

Malpractice, on the other hand, focuses more on pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, and loss of quality of life.

Now What?

If you believe that your situation fits the legal definition of medical malpractice or wrongful death, you may want to consider taking legal action. The team at Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. can help you.

If a loved one of yours has died or has been permanently injured due to actions within a hospital, call us today. Our dedicated team of legal professionals will guide you on the courses of action available to you. Call us for a consultation today at Power Trial Lawyers and take advantage of our many years of expertise and dedication to fighting for our client’s compensation and future wellbeing. Reach us at (844) 844-POWER now!

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