Doctor wearing stethoscope - Civil law in San Francisco, CA

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the third leading cause of death in the United States is medical malpractice. Patients rely on their doctors for help. When that trust is broken, there must be some accountability. Here is what you need to know about medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits.

Know the Statistics

In 2012, the medical community in the U.S. paid out over $3 billion in malpractice payments. The number of incidents was so frequent that it amounted to a payout every 43 minutes. The state of California alone paid $263.8 million to the victims of medical malpractice in 2015. Understand the Laws 

Only family members are legally allowed to file a wrongful death suit. This is typically the spouse or the parent of a minor child. If these relations do not exist, the law specifies the order in which other relations have the right to file. The only exception to the law is if no family exists. In this instance, the inheritor of the estate may file a suit. 

Criminal charges do not need to have been filed or laws are broken for a case to qualify as a wrongful death lawsuit because it is a civil case. The California statute of limitations requires the case to be filed within one year of the plaintiff discovering the injury or three years from the date the injury occurred — whichever comes first. 
In addition, an attorney can help determine the type of complaint. When a death occurs due to a patient, it could be considered either malpractice or negligence. Malpractice is when a provider intentionally does something that harms a patient. For example, not bothering to order specific tests. Negligence is an accidental occurrence.

Appreciate the Reason

Wrongful death lawsuits for malpractice are not a matter of revenge. Rather, they have a very important purpose for the plaintiff and the public. The suits encourage reform in the medical industry, initiate recalls of dangerous products and devices and help to identify unprofessional doctors and other caregivers. 

For the family, the lawsuit is a way to get an admission of wrongdoing. This sometimes helps to alleviate a little of the pain and anger they feel. A successful case also compensates them for any financial losses experienced and up to $250,000 for the pain and suffering caused by their loss.

File the Complaint

Family members should contact the doctor and facility responsible before filing a complaint to get details about what treatments the individual received. Contact the State Department of Health Care Services to file complaints about a specific facility and notify the Medical Board of California when it is related to a specific health care provider. 

Malpractice lawsuits for wrongful death are not limited to only traditional medical providers. Families also have the right to file claims against homeopathic and other alternative caregivers, pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment and device manufacturers.

Contact an Attorney

Contact an attorney quickly to avoid exceeding the statute of limitations. The attorney and their staff will investigate the responsible parties to determine if there have been past complaints. They will also review treatment, medication and all other details to determine if additional parties are involved. 

Winning a lawsuit does not bring back a loved one or diminish the emotional pain of their loss. It does force the medical community to be more careful, and it provides a warning to careless practitioners. At the Law office of Fernando Hidalgo, we fight hard for our clients to get them the financial relief and the closure they need. Contact us today to arrange an initial consultation.