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When Medical Malpractice Leads to Death


When a victim of medical malpractice loses his or her life, the hospital, medical professionals or health care facility may be able to be held liable for damages in some cases. In Tennessee, certain family members may be able to recover financial compensation for medical costs, funeral expenses, future lost wages, and sometimes damages for a lost relationship between the deceased victim and parents, spouse and children.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, it is estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 victims lose their lives each year in America due to some type of medical error or negligence. This means that medical malpractice could be the third leading cause of death in the United States. Because of the many inaccuracies in medical records, however, and the suspected number of medical professionals who are reluctant to report medical errors even when they know about them, the numbers are approximate. The estimate of 440,000 deaths related to malpractice is about one-sixth of the total deaths that occur in the U.S. each year.

What to Do When a Loved Ones Dies Due to Medical Malpractice

In Tennessee, family members may choose to pursue legal action under the state's wrongful death laws when their loved one dies due to medical malpractice. Two different types of legal action that surviving family members may decide to pursue include:

  • Survival Action: When a personal representative pursues a survival action against the defendant, he or she may be able to recover damages that were suffered by the deceased victim. These damages include things like medical costs and other expenses incurred from the time of the incident until the victim's death, and pain and suffering endured by the deceased.
  • Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Immediate family members such as spouses, parents and children may be able to recover damages caused by the loss of their loved one when they file a wrongful death lawsuit. These damages include medical and funeral expenses, lost income and loss of future wages, loss of parental guidance, and loss of companionship.

When medical malpractice leads to death, it is vital for the surviving family members to begin pursuing their legal options as soon as possible. While there are some exceptions to the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in Tennessee, claims for damages must generally be filed within one year of the victim's death.

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