Wrongful death and medical malpractice

When someone dies in California as the result of medical malpractice, the surviving family members often file a wrongful death suit against the doctor and/or medical facility whose negligence caused the death of their loved one. As bsfdea.com explains, the Institute of Medicine calculates that as many as 100,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors.

Medical errors can take many forms. Among others, they can be a misdiagnosis, a medication error or bacterial infection that the patient contracted while in a hospital, a birth injury, or abuse or neglect on the part of a nursing home.

Types of medical malpractice

Medical malpractice generally falls into the following three types:

  1. Emergency room errors
  2. Diagnosis errors
  3. Surgical errors

Emergency room errors include such things as not ordering necessary tests; making lab errors on the ordered tests; delaying or failing to treat the patient; declining to admit the patient to the hospital and/or prematurely discharging him or her from the ER. While misdiagnoses also can occur in the ER, most are committed by doctors in private practice. Such errors can lead to heart attacks, strokes, internal bleeding, catastrophic infections, bacterial meningitis and pulmonary embolisms. Surgical errors often include unnecessary or prolonged surgeries, improper surgical methods, improper administration of anesthesia, and infections due to poor intra-operative and/or post-operative procedures.

Wrongful death actions

FindLaw.com states that surviving family members of a patient who died as the result of medical malpractice can file a wrongful death action seeking monetary compensation for many things, including the following:

  • Pain and suffering prior to death
  • Loss of wages and the earning capacity of the deceased
  • Loss of consortium
  • Punitive damages if the defendant(s) engaged in outrageous and/or egregious conduct

Some states, including California, limit the amount that plaintiffs can recover for noneconomic damages. However, there are no limits with regard to economic and punitive damages.

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