One of the problems faced by families when they lose a loved one is determining if the death was, in fact, a wrongful death. Wrongful death is legally defined as a death that occurs due to the negligence of another person. This covers a wide variety of scenarios, and can include automobile collisions, pedestrian crashes, motorcycle accidents, or medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice is not always classified as wrongful death. There are several things that have to be proven to show that a case of medical malpractice is a wrongful death case as well. First, there has to actually be a death. That death has to be caused directly by the malpractice. In other words, just because someone is a victim of malpractice and dies does not necessarily mean the malpractice caused the death. Sometimes the relationship is clear; sometimes it is convoluted; sometimes it does not exist. For example, if someone died of lung cancer complications while being treated for a knee replacement, it does not necessarily follow that the knee replacement caused the death. Even if the doctor bungled the knee surgery, he or she could not necessarily be held accountable for the death.
In other cases, however, patients are given the wrong drugs by mistake, not given life-saving techniques or treatments, or are the victims of mismanagement of care that leads to death. In these cases, there is clearly a relationship between the victim’s death and the medical treatment, and a medical malpractice wrongful death case has occurred.
Patients’ families are not always aware that malpractice has occurred. In many cases, the family will not discover the malpractice until months after the death, when someone points it out due to an insurance investigation or other inquiry. The state of California allows medical malpractice claims to be filed up to one year after the event in most cases. However, this time limit may be extended if the victim’s family did not realize malpractice had been committed at the time of the death.
These are questions for a professional Sacramento wrongful death attorney to answer. Even if you have been told you have “no claim” or that the time limit to file has passed, you should still consult with an attorney about your rights. Victims’ families have been given incorrect information in the past simply to keep them from filing a lawsuit. Do not allow yourself to be victimized all over again. Talk to a personal injury attorney about your claim as soon as possible.