Doctors and hospitals are people and organizations that we ordinary individuals without medical training trust with our health and even our lives on a daily basis. When a plumber makes a mistake, it is not a good thing but people rarely die from plumbing errors. When a doctor makes an error, it is far more likely that an individual can die from that error. When individuals die from a doctor’s error, the problem is both medical malpractice and wrongful death.
Medical error is one of the most serious issues in all hospitals across the country. On an annual basis, more than 225,000 people die from injuries that are related to doctor and hospital errors in all of their forms. The United States Department of Justice found in 2007 that the number of successful medical malpractice cases increased by 40%. More serious, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies found that medication errors and medical malpractice were part of the deaths of one and a half million Americans in 2006. The error may not have been the overall cause of death but it did play a significant role in bringing the death about.
When medical malpractice causes death, a family or estate can bring a claim of wrongful death against the doctor that messed up. The cause of the wrongful death would be the negligence or error on the part of the doctor.
When a wrongful death claim is filed and won, the damages that are awarded have little to do with the suffering of the now deceased and everything to do with the damages done to the remaining family. As such, it can be significantly more expensive for a doctor or medical malpractice insurer to cover the damages. The damages in this instance are designed to compensate the family for the loss of the loved one. Most of the damages awarded are for economic or monetary damages to the family but it is possible to include other types of damages as well. The overall goal of a wrongful death claim is to compensate a family for the loss of a family member, basically to make the family whole again.
When the death comes about via medical malpractice, things are no less different than in any other wrongful death situation. As medical malpractice is a negligence claim, the basic rules of negligence apply to the claim. It is only when one gets to damages that the terms switch over. The reason wrongful death exists is to prevent careless doctors from escaping justice in the event that their patient dies.