Navigating Wrongful Death Claims: Essential Steps and Considerations for Grieving Families
There is not a week that goes by that I don't get a call from a grieving individual regarding medical malpractice involving wrongful death of a relative, i.e., son, daughter, mother, father, etc.
Although medical malpractice could certainly involve wrongful death of a person, a mere suspicion of a relative of the deceased is not enough reason to retain an attorney or be retained by a prospective client. There needs to be reliable evidentiary facts, the simplest form of which would be facts stated by an expert in the same field of medicine. An expert that is willing to declare under penalty of perjury that in fact death was the consequence of a medical error.
Wrongful death lawyers do spend a great deal of money on experts to prove their client's wrongful death claim, but they do so only when facts reasonably appear to suggest a wrongful death due to hospital and/or physician's mistake; for example, when the medical records indicate there was an error leading to decedent's demise. Sometimes the medical mistake is so flagrant that the medical care provider readily admits that death was as a result of a medical mistake and informs the immediate relatives to hire a lawyer to settle the matter, although this is very rare.
Most wrongful death lawyers, during the initial telephone consultation, would not agree to be retained once they realize that the caller is suffering from enormous grief for loss of a loved one without any evidence of malfeasance by the medical providers, hence pure suspicion of a grief stricken relative. Some lawyers, however, are willing to be retained conditioned upon medical review by an expert which they expect the caller to pay for, experts fees of which could be several thousands of dollars that most cannot afford.
In California attorney representation for a wrongful death case is on contingency basis, meaning there is no out of pocket money charged unless there is a recovery on the case. And during attorney representation all costs would be advanced by the retained attorney and only reimbursed at the end of the case if there is a recovery. Therefore, demanding payment for an expert review of medical records before being hired is not the norm.
So, what's the bottom line? If you think your loved one died because of a medical mistake, make sure you have the medical records in hand, which if not clearly indicating, at least reasonably suggesting that "but for" a medical mistake by the medical practitioner(s), i.e., hospital and/or medical doctor(s), death would not have occurred. The medical records that would be the bases for a wrongful death lawsuit against the medical providers could be a second opinion that you have received from a physician who declared medical malpractice was the reason for death; a death certificate which points to a medical mistake; or admission of an error by hospital or the physician responsible for the care of the decedent, etc.
For further information on wrongful death claims involving medical malpractice contact the Majlessi Law Firm.
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