Wrongful death lawsuits are based on demonstrating that a family member met an untimely passing due to someone else’s negligence.
Often people hear the term “wrongful death” in the context of a medical setting, such as when a doctor is negligent.
When it comes to medical negligence in a wrongful death case, quite often it’s because of things like:
- Prescription mistakes that result in death or serious damage. This can be when a doctor prescribes something that never should’ve been prescribed based on the patient’s situation, or when a pharmacist provides the wrong medicine (or dosage) that is not what was on the prescription.
- Overdoses, such as when one nurse or doctor administers medication and another nurse or doctor returns shortly thereafter and administers again, and the overdose causes death or serious harm.
- When the anesthesiologist fails to maintain the breathing tube and the patient suffers major complications or as a result.
- When the surgery outlasts the anesthesia and the patient wakes up mid-surgery, causing major complications.
As with other types of negligence cases we’ve discussed, an important factor in the viability of the case is being able to clearly demonstrate the mistake that was made and how it directly led to major damage or death.
In other words, you can’t build a wrongful death cause on hypotheticals.
Even if a doctor made a careless mistake that could have led to severe consequences, if nothing actually went wrong that caused damage, the case probably won’t stand up in court.
Here’s an example of this in action from either result:
Say a doctor administered a combination of medications that conflict with each other, or conflict with a medication a patient is already taking. In this example the combination results in the patient nodding off while driving home.
If the patient then drove into a telephone pole or another vehicle and was seriously injured, that’s a cause for a negligence/wrongful death case.
However, if that patient’s car drifted harmlessly to a stop on the side of the road and they woke up later, while that’s still understandably frustrating that it happened, there’s no cause for a lawsuit. Sure, in this case falling asleep driving could certainly have resulted in something terrible. But one can’t form a negligence lawsuit on the basis of what may have happened.
Unfortunately, being scared or upset in themselves does not constitute a wrongful death/negligence lawsuit.
Let’s go back to the earlier example of anesthesia wearing off mid-surgery.
If the ensuing panic etc. of waking up causes complications that lead to other serious health maladies, or death, it’s certainly grounds for a case.
But if that patient wakes up and is understandably freaked out, but the doctors are able to put them right back to sleep and the surgery results well as expected regardless, it’s unlikely that a lawsuit would resolve favorably for the patient because no clear damage was done.