A wrongful death case can happen when a patient dies due to medical malpractice. Wrongful death lawsuits are governed strictly by Utah state law, and there are specific procedures that are unique to wrongful death lawsuits in comparison to broader personal injury claims.
There are some key issues that are common to all wrongful death cases. These include:
- Who is able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate of the deceased;
- How is someone appointed to represent the estate; and
- What kind of damages can be recovered in a wrongful death case.
In the following paragraphs, we are going to discuss each of these issues with in-depth explanations. Keep in mind there is a distinction between hospital and doctor liability. Both hospitals and doctors can potentially be held liable in a wrongful death case. Depending on the circumstances of a given case, the liable party hinges on the specifics of the established negligence.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit on Behalf of the Deceased?
The person who will ultimately file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased plaintiff will usually be the plaintiff’s closest living relative, such as a spouse, child, or parent.
The person filing the lawsuit can also be the executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased, if applicable. In a majority of cases, the family of the deceased will not be concerned with who is acting on behalf of the deceased. However, there are times when surviving family members get into disputes about who should be the estate representative. In the end, it is the representative of the estate who will have the legal authority to file, control, and settle the lawsuit.
For instance, if the deceased party did not have any surviving family members, only leaving behind two children who are not on good terms, there could be cause for concern. Usually, it would be up to one of the children to become the representative of their parent in order to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The other may object, and in this case, the dispute would have to be settled in court.
How Does the Person Who Wants to File the Lawsuit Get Appointed?
Regardless of if it is through agreement or after the trial, the representative of the deceased will be required to be appointed by the Utah legal system dealing with wills and estates. In Utah, this is referred to as the probate court.
The probate court will mandate that the chosen representative provide notice to all interested parties, including relatives and other parties possibly supported by the deceased. If there are no objections, the court will then appoint that party as the representative of the estate. If there is an objection, there will be a hearing, and then the court will decide who would be the best fit to act as the representative for the interests of the deceased’s estate.
Types Of Damages Recovered in A Wrongful Death Case
The plaintiff in a medical malpractice suit due to wrongful death is often able to recover standard damages available in a regular medical malpractice case, including lost income, lost employment benefits, medical costs, and the pain and suffering of the deceased. For more information on medical malpractice cases, contact an experienced attorney at Siegfried & Jensen for more information.
In addition to customary medical malpractice damages, the plaintiff in a wrongful death case can collect damages due to funeral and burial expenses for the deceased party. Also, any family member supported financially by the deceased is entitled to damages for loss of support for the duration of time into the future that the deceased would have continued supporting them.
To recover damages involving loss of support, the family member is required to provide evidence that the deceased party supported him or her financially, and must also prove the amount of financial support. Minors will receive loss of support through the age of 18, and perhaps even for college if it can be proven that the deceased party would have provided for the child’s college education as well. A widow is eligible to recover loss of support until the retirement age of the deceased. Likewise, a widower can recover loss of support damages if he can provide evidence that his deceased wife supported him financially. Parents or other relatives can also recover damages for loss of support if they can establish that the deceased supported them financially.
Also, the spouse of the deceased is eligible to recover damages for loss of consortium and perhaps even loss of the deceased’s services around the home. Loss of guidance and nurture can represent the value of the deceased parent’s lost parental advice and rearing. It is also possible that punitive damages can be recovered in situations where the actions of the defendant were particularly reprehensible.
Wrongful Death Due to Malpractice in Utah
Medical malpractice due to physician negligence can be extremely life-altering, upsetting the lives of both victims and their families in devastating ways. A study conducted by John Hopkins Hospital in 2016 found that around 250,000 Americans are killed due to medical errors each year. Put into perspective, that is around 700 deaths each day. 55 percent of all physicians have been involved in a medical malpractice suit during their career. Sadly, a large number of medical malpractice cases are not pursued by the victims, leaving them and their families to take on the burden associated with these medical errors.
The Salt Lake City medical malpractice lawyers at Siegfried & Jensen have over 30 years of experience helping victims recover lost damages due to medical malpractice. When a trusted figure such as a physician makes a mistake that results in the injury of their patients, they should be held liable for their actions, not the victim or their family. If you or a loved one has been irreparably harmed due to the negligence of a medical practitioner, contact our law offices today at (801) 845-9000 to see how we can help you.