How much you can claim for a death caused by medical malpractice depends on your state’s laws. While you can obtain economic damages that reflect your actual losses in a wrongful death lawsuit, your state might limit the amount that you can recover for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.
Defining Medical Malpractice
Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals sometimes make mistakes through a negligent act or omission that cost patients their lives. Some common examples of medical malpractice include:
- A physician could misdiagnose a condition, leading to a delay in care or inappropriate treatment that either does not help or makes things worse.
- A surgeon or an anesthesiologist might make a fatal error during an operation.
- A doctor may prescribe a medication to which a patient has an allergy or causes a dangerous interaction with another drug the patient takes.
- A pharmacist may provide the wrong pills or fail to notice a potentially dangerous interaction when filling a prescription.
Available Compensation in Wrongful Death Claim Resulting From Medical Malpractice
Your family can sue for economic damages, including medical bills, funeral costs, and your relative’s lost income, in a wrongful death action. These awards cover bills that your loved one incurred and estimate how much money your relative would likely have earned if they had not suffered premature death.
Noneconomic damages compensate you and other family members for what you have lost in emotional terms because of the death of your loved one. You can seek compensation for the loss of your family member’s love, support, and affection.
Damage Caps for Noneconomic Damages
The tort reform movement prompted numerous states to pass laws limiting damages in medical malpractice cases. According to the Center for Justice & Democracy, 29 states have placed caps on noneconomic damages, including six—Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Virginia—that also limit economic damages to some extent.
Meanwhile, five states—Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming—have constitutional provisions that bar damage caps in personal injury cases, while four—New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah—only prohibit damage caps in wrongful death suits.
Supporters of damage limits argue that large jury awards have driven up health care costs for everyone. If your state has passed tort reform laws, it can impact the amount of compensation your family might collect.
Some states limit how much you can claim for a death caused by medical malpractice. If multiple relatives file separate wrongful death lawsuits, the law will treat them as one plaintiff filing a single claim. That means the total amount awarded to all plaintiffs cannot exceed the cap on noneconomic damages set by law. Eligible parties would divide any award they recover. State laws may dictate the percentages that each person can receive based on their relationship with the deceased person.
In some medical negligence cases, multiple defendants share responsibility for a victim’s death. For example, a patient may have died because of an error that occurred during a surgical procedure. In that case, the doctor who performed the surgery and the hospital where the operation took place might share liability. If your family sues both parties, laws in your state may limit the total amount of damages you may recover. A wrongful death lawyer can explain how these caps could affect your claim.
Other State Statutes Could Affect Your Case
State laws differ regarding eligibility for filing wrongful death cases. Some states only confer that right on immediate family members, while others let more distant relatives—and sometimes nonrelatives—file wrongful death lawsuits. Some state laws arrange family members in a hierarchy, with some having an opportunity to sue before others.
A few states prohibit relatives from filing wrongful death lawsuits. Instead, only a personal representative or executor of the victim’s estate may sue. The executor would use any award to pay outstanding bills first before distributing the rest among surviving beneficiaries.
State laws set different statutes of limitations for medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits. If you miss the deadline, you may be unable to seek compensation, even if you have a strong claim.
A Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help Your Family
If your loved one died because of a medical provider’s negligence, your family likely feels devastated and unsure where to turn. Attorneys with Ben Crump Law, PLLC, have represented clients all over the United States who lost loved ones because of others’ negligence. If you believe a health care provider caused your loved one’s death, we might seek financial compensation for your family.
Our team can investigate what happened, interviewing you and other witnesses, and reviewing your relative’s medical records. We can consult independent medical experts to learn if the treatment your family member received deviated from the standard of care. If so, we may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Taking a wrongful death case to trial can become costly and time-consuming for both the plaintiff and defendant, so the parties often negotiate an out-of-court settlement. If we cannot agree to terms, we can go to court to seek justice for your family.
You should not let concerns about legal fees stop you from seeking the compensation you deserve. Ben Crump Law, PLLC, operates on a contingency model. We will not charge you any upfront fees. Our firm only gets paid if we obtain a settlement for you.
A member of our staff can explain the laws in your state related to how much you can claim for a death caused by medical malpractice, statutes of limitation, and eligibility to file. Call us today at (800) 593-3443 for your free case review with a team member.