What Can A Family Do When a Loved One Dies Due to Medical Error?
Any time a family or close friend enters the hospital to receive treatment for a serious illness or medical condition, it can be a nerve-wracking experience until the okay is given to release the patient to go home. These situations can be especially stressful if the visit to the hospital was an emergency or involved a complicated set of symptoms. Most of the time, medical malpractice is not an issue because people receive the medical treatment they need, and go home to pick up their life. However, doctors do make mistakes that lead to injuries and death, and these medical errors often result in the injured parties or a deceased’s family contacting a lawyer about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. In fact, a recent study in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) found that medical error accounted for the third leading cause of death in the U.S. These errors were attributed to unintended acts, unintended outcomes, errors in execution and/or planning, and deviations from the standards of care. Further, these errors occur on the individual and system level making the ability to correct the problems more complex. Given that medical errors appear to have a large impact on the mortality rates of some patients, the family’s legal options when this type of tragedy occurs will be discussed below.
Wrongful Death Act – Who Can Sue?
When a person dies in Florida due to doctor’s medical negligence, the surviving family members are permitted to bring a civil lawsuit under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. This statute establishes who has the right to sue for recovery and the amount of damages that may be awarded. This statute specifies which individuals have the right to sue for a wrongful death claim, and includes the following:
- parents, if they were partially or completely dependent on the deceased;
- blood relatives; and
- adoptive siblings.
In addition, children born out of wedlock to a mother are automatically considered eligible survivors, but children born to a father out of wedlock are not eligible to file this type of claim unless the father affirmatively took responsibility for the child’s support.
The statute also lays out the kinds of damages the survivors can demand in their lawsuit. Each party that was dependent on the financial support of the deceased can sue to recover the value of lost past and future support and services the deceased provided. A surviving spouse can also ask for damages related to the loss of the deceased’s companionship and pain and suffering experienced since the date of the injury. Minor children, and adult children if there is no surviving spouse, may additionally seek damages for lost parental companionship, instruction and guidance and pain and suffering. Parents of deceased minor children can receive damages for pain and suffering, as well as parents of adult children with no other eligible survivors. Reimbursement for medical bills and funeral expenses are also awarded in wrongful death cases.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The death of a loved one due to doctor error is a devastating event, and no amount of atonement will ever fully make up for the loss. However, it is important to hold the responsible parties accountable for what they did. A medical malpractice lawyer, such as those at Pita Weber & Del Prado, can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact our Miami office for a free consultation.