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Wrongful Death in Medical Malpractice Cases: Your Legal Rights

By Sean Burke on February 28, 2018

Holding a loved one's handThe loss of a loved one can have leave a family stricken with grief for years to come. When the death was the result of negligent medical care, the tragedy is often pronounced. We trust doctors and surgeons to save lives, not put lives at risk.

If you have lost a loved one because of a senseless medical mistake, the Orange County, CA wrongful death attorneys at our law firm can help.

Defining Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice

While fatal medical mistakes do occur, medical malpractice and wrongful death are separate kinds of civil cases. Medical malpractice refers to the mistakes made by medical professionals that led to harm. Wrongful death refers to the loss of life as a result of another person’s negligence.

If you lose a loved one as a result of a medical professional’s negligence, you will wind up filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the medical professional and/or the medical facility. The wrongful death lawsuit will cover a broader range of losses associated with the loss of your loved one, also encompassing the negligence by the doctor or surgeon.

Fatal Surgical Mistakes

When a surgeon makes a mistake, it can literally mean the difference between life and death. Fatal surgery errors can take many forms. A number of fatal surgical mistakes are particularly egregious since a little more planning or proper execution of the surgery could have prevented the loss of life.

Fatal Anesthesia Errors

Related to surgical errors, errors with anesthetic can be just as deadly. Administering too much general anesthesia can result in a coma and death. Similarly, an allergic reaction to anesthetic can put someone’s life at risk. Anesthesia errors simply should not be overlooked, and anesthesiologists must be held accountable for their mistakes.

Fatal Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis

Cancer and other serious illnesses can spread rapidly, and a person’s health can deteriorate in a matters of weeks. If doctor missed the telltale warning signs and symptoms of a terminal illness, they need to be held accountable for this reckless mistake. Whether they missed the diagnosis, or were too slow in making the diagnosis, there needs to be accountability.

Fatal Contraindications of Prescription Drugs

Certain prescription medications should not be taken in combination with other drugs. If a doctor prescribes medication without considering potential contraindications, this can put a patient’s life at risk. Doctors must always go over the patient’s medical history and check about other medications the patient is on before writing a prescription.

Legal Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

When filing a wrongful death lawsuit, two kinds of damages may be sought.

  • Compensatory Damages - Compensatory damages cover actual financial losses related to the death of a loved one. This includes funerary expenses, the cost of medical care in the lead up to the loved one’s death, lost wages, emotional pain and suffering, and so forth.
  • Punitive Damages - Punitive damages are meant to punish medical professionals for their negligence. Not attached to any actual losses, the amount in punitive damages is determined by awards in similar cases and the egregiousness of the medical mistake.

The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases

In the state of California, surviving family members have two years from the date of the loved ones’ death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Legal action cannot be pursued after the statute of limitations has passed.

Speak with Our Wrongful Death Lawyers

For more information about your legal options when a doctor or surgeon makes a critical error, be sure to contact a skilled medical malpractice attorney today. The lawyers of Burke Law are here to help you.

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