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What is the difference between medical malpractice and wrongful death claims?

Those who have suffered the tragic loss of a family member due to the negligence of another may wonder whether to bring a wrongful death claim, or one based on medical malpractice. In general, in the worst-case scenario, if you lose a loved one due to the recklessness or negligence of another, it may be possible to file a wrongful death personal injury lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits can arise in any type of personal injury matter. This includes deaths that occur due to motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents, construction accidents and medical malpractice.

In instances involving a “wrongful death,” the surviving family members may be entitled to recover economic and non-economic damages based on such items as lost wages, funeral/burial expenses and emotional distress. They may also be entitled to recover additional damages in a survival action.

Thus, if a family member is killed in a head-on car crash, for example, it may be possible to bring a wrongful death/personal injury claim based on the negligent or reckless conduct of the driver.

On the other hand, medical malpractice may be the foundation of a wrongful death case. In these instances, where the wrongful death case is based on a claim of medical malpractice, the surviving family members must show that a medical mistake or error led to the decedent’s death. Unlike in other personal injury cases involving a death, caps on the recovery of non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits may severely limit a family's recovery in these actions. Unfortunately where economic losses are minimal, such laws often deprive family members of compensation for the loss of a beloved child, grandparent, or stay-at-home parent.

For more information, or if you have lost a loved one due to the careless or reckless actions of another, please contact the experienced Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys at Bostwick & Peterson for a confidential consultation.



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