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Differences Between Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death

When a loved one dies due to a negligent or reckless act on the part of a medical professional, it can be difficult to determine the next steps to take. In some cases, it may seem clear that medical malpractice occurred. In others, it may be difficult to determine whether a wrongful death suit is the better course of action.

It is essential to understand the difference between medical malpractice and wrongful death, as this can help you determine whether you have a case. And before filing a claim, you should consult medical malpractice or wrongful death lawyers in Los Angeles. We’ll discuss the difference between the two, their statute limitations, and settlement amounts.

How is Medical Malpractice Different from Wrongful Death?

Medical malpractice and wrongful death are two closely related concepts in the legal world, but they have significant differences.

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional or healthcare provider, such as a doctor or nurse, fails to give care that meets the professional standard. The medical standard of care can be defined simply as the type of care that a reasonably skilled medical professional with the same education, background, and ability would have given the patient in the same situation.

Some examples of failure to provide a reasonable standard of care:

  • Missed diagnoses
  • Performing surgery on the wrong person
  • HIPAA violations
  • Not asking for and receiving informed consent from the patient
  • Releasing a patient too soon
  • Leaving surgical implements inside the patient’s body

For example, if a doctor does any of the above, they could be held liable in a medical negligence case.

On the other hand, wrongful death is when someone dies due to the actions or inaction of another person or entity. For example, if a company manufactures a defective product that causes someone’s death, it could be sued for wrongful death.

Many situations could give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. Some examples are:

  • Negligent homicide
  • Slips and falls
  • Workplace accidents and illnesses
  • Car accidents

Comparing Medical Malpractice with Wrongful Death

While medical malpractice and wrongful death can occur due to negligence, they are different legal concepts. Medical malpractice cases are usually brought against healthcare professionals, while wrongful death cases can be brought against anyone and any organization whose actions or inaction led to someone’s death.

Even though medical malpractices can result in wrongful deaths, it is not the only reason for wrongful deaths. Wrongful death can also result from car accidents, industrial accidents, and dog bites.

Medical malpractice cases usually focus on the pain and suffering that the patient experiences. Similarly, wrongful death cases focus on the financial damages that the deceased person’s family has suffered.

Statute of Limitations

The state determines the statute of limitations on medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits. The statute of limitations determines the amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit.

In California, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is one year from the date of discovery of the injury or three years from the actual date of the injury, whichever is earlier. Meanwhile, plaintiffs should file a wrongful death lawsuit in California within two years of the incident.

Settlement Amounts

The settlement amount for medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits depends on the injuries and other circumstances surrounding the incident. Medical malpractice victims are usually eligible to receive financial compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain.

For wrongful death cases, damages such as loss of consortium, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of earnings are often available. Sometimes, punitive damages may also be awarded. These are meant to punish the negligent party for their actions.

California does not limit the economic damages a plaintiff can receive from these types of cases. The settlement amount can reach millions depending on the merits of the case.

However, the state limits noneconomic damage due to injuries caused by the professional negligence of health care providers. The settlement should not exceed $250,000 in California.

The Importance of Consulting a Lawyer Before Filing a Claim

When a loved one dies due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, it can be difficult to know how to proceed. While filing a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim cannot bring a loved one back, it is a way to hold the negligent party accountable. Additionally, damages awarded will help the loved ones of the bereaved cover the costs that resulted from the loss, such as funeral expenses and hospital bills.

However, it’s essential to understand the differences between these two types of claims and obtain legal advice from an experienced medical malpractice or wrongful death lawyer in Los Angeles before moving forward.

There are many reasons why it is important to consult with a lawyer before filing a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim. These types of cases are complex and challenging to navigate without the help of a legal professional.

A lawyer will know the ins and outs of the legal process and will be able to guide you every step of the way. Additionally, a lawyer can help you determine whether you have a strong case and what kind of compensation you may be entitled to receive.

Although medical malpractice and wrongful death as legal concepts share some similarities, they are quite different. If you believe that you have reason to file a medical malpractice or wrongful death case, get in touch with Haffner Law today for a free consultation.


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