Can You Sue a Doctor for Wrongful Death? | Ellis Injury Law

Can You Sue a Doctor for Wrongful Death?

A physician whose faulty medical advice has caused injuries to a patient will be liable for the patient’s injury-related losses and expenses in a medical malpractice negligence lawsuit. In California, if the patient dies as a result of the doctor’s errors, the patient’s family members can also sue the doctor for wrongful death to recover compensation for their own damages.  

Medical malpractice and wrongful death claims may be pursued separately or, if the claims arise from the same negligent medical conduct, in a single consolidated lawsuit. A knowledgeable and experienced wrongful death attorney, including any of the medical malpractice lawyers at Ellis Injury Law in Los Angeles, can advise a deceased patient’s family members on how best to proceed in medical negligence and wrongful death cases to recover the largest available damages award from all parties that contributed to the conduct that caused the patient’s death. 

Are wrongful death lawsuits against doctors different from other wrongful death cases? 

In non-medical wrongful death cases, the California statute of limitations requires the deceased party’s family members to file their wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the incident that caused the accident victim’s death. In medical malpractice wrongful death cases, the family must file their lawsuit within three years of when the malpractice occurred or one year after they could have discovered the malpractice through the exercise of reasonable diligence.    

Before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in California, the injured party or his or her representative must also give the doctor a written notice of an intention to file a lawsuit at least 90-days before filing it. If the malpractice victim’s family does not pay attention to these deadlines, they can easily lose the opportunity to pursue a wrongful death claim against a negligent doctor. The best course of action is always to consult with wrongful death lawyers as soon as is possible after there is any indication that a doctor may have been negligent in rendering professional medical services.     

Is the patient’s family entitled to recover the same damages for wrongful death as the patient would for medical malpractice? 

A patient that successfully sues a doctor for medical malpractice can recover reimbursement for medical bills, lost wages, and a reduction in the quality of his or her life. Under California law, however, a patient cannot recover more than $250,000 for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. That cap does not apply in a wrongful death lawsuit. Accordingly, a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer will often file both a survivor action on behalf of the injured patient’s estate to recover the full measure of medical malpractice negligence damages and a wrongful death action on behalf of the patient’s family to recoup the maximum compensation for the losses they suffered as a result of the death of their family member.      

What do family members need to prove in a wrongful death lawsuit against a doctor? 

Wrongful death lawsuits against physicians follow the same standards and procedures as medical negligence claims. In part, the patient’s survivors will need to demonstrate: 

  • The doctor’s care was below the prevailing standards for the type of medical care that the patient received. In Southern California, a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will likely retain an expert to review the facts and testify in the case as to the correct standard of care and how the defendant physician failed to meet it. 
  • The patient’s death was the direct result of the doctor’s sub-standard care. When a patient has multiple illnesses and medical problems, a doctor might challenge a wrongful death claim with an argument that something other than the doctor’s malpractice was the cause of death. 
  • The family members suffered actual economic and non-economic damages as a result of the patient’s death. Economic damages are readily verified through receipts for funeral expenses and other objective costs that the family incurred. Non-economic damages, such as the value of the deceased party’s support and companionship, will be supported by testimony about the patient’s work and family habits, salary and earnings, and special contributions that he or she provided for the family. 

Call Ellis Injury Law for representation in a wrongful death lawsuit against a doctor 

Please submit our online form or call the Los Angeles offices of Ellis Injury Law to confer with a wrongful death lawyer about your opportunity to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a doctor whose negligence and malpractice resulted in the death of a family member. We have represented individuals for more than 25 years and have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for our clients.