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What Is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice & Wrongful Death?

Colburn Law

No one expects to suffer harm at the hands of a healthcare provider. Unfortunately, many people develop serious injuries and worsening illnesses due to medical negligence. In some cases, patients die because of healthcare providers’ actions.

Victims of medical negligence can pursue legal action against the at-fault providers. Depending on the outcome of the negligence, victims or their families could pursue a medical malpractice claim or a wrongful death lawsuit.

Understanding Medical Malpractice & Wrongful Death Lawsuits

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Healthcare providers have an obligation to provide a certain standard of care to their patients. If a doctor, surgeon, nurse, or any other medical professional fails to uphold this standard and causes harm to a patient, he or she commits medical malpractice.

Common types of medical malpractice include the following.

  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
  • Surgical errors, such as wrong-site surgery
  • Prescribing the wrong medication or dosage
  • Failure to provide proper aftercare or follow up
  • Discharging a patient prematurely
  • Incorrect treatment of a medical condition
  • Errors while administering anesthesia

Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Claims

In Washington, victims of medical malpractice can file civil lawsuits against negligent healthcare providers. By filing this type of claim, victims can recover compensation for the losses that they experienced due to the providers’ actions, such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

However, you can only file a medical malpractice claim while you are alive. If someone dies due to medical negligence, the deceased’s family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit on his or her behalf.

A wrongful death claim is similar to a medical malpractice lawsuit in several ways. They are both filed in civil court and result in financial compensation for the plaintiff or the deceased’s family. In cases involving medical professionals, the at-fault party is the negligent healthcare provider and, in certain situations, his or her employer.

However, there are a few key differences between these types of claims, such as the following.

  • Who Can File: Any person can file a medical malpractice lawsuit if they experienced harm due to a healthcare professional’s actions. In Washington, only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim.
  • Available Damages: In a medical malpractice lawsuit, you can recover compensation for the economic and non-economic losses that you personally experienced. In a wrongful death claim, damages include final medical care, funeral and burial expenses, and the pain and suffering that family members experienced.

What to Do If You or a Loved One Experience Medical Malpractice

Medical negligence can be painful and debilitating. If you or a loved one have experienced medical malpractice at the hands of a Washington healthcare provider, you may be eligible for legal action. In these situations, it is important to remain calm, gather as much evidence related to your case, and seek help from another medical professional to recover from the damage.

If you lost a loved one due to medical negligence, start collecting evidence related to his or her treatment and final injuries. Once you have received the help that you need, contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can evaluate your or your loved one’s case and discuss your legal options.