The Institute of Medicine estimates that as many as 98,000 Americans die every year due to preventable medical errors. Family members may file two separate actions on behalf of someone who has died due to preventable medical error (1) a wrongful death action; and (2) a survivor action. Both claims may be filed in the same case.
Wrongful Death Action
Wrongful death actions claim that the deceased patient died due to a preventable medical error. As a result of that death, the doctor or hospital responsible for the medical error should compensate the family members for any losses and/or damages stemming from the death. Wrongful death actions do not seek any compensation for the harm inflicted on the deceased patient, rather family members sue on their own behalf. Damages sued for may stem from loss of love and emotional support, loss of financial support, and loss of quality of life.
Survivor actions are filed by the survivor(s) of a deceased patient on the patient’s behalf. These lawsuits allege that the patient died due to a preventable medical error, which caused the patient pain and suffering. Had the patient survived, he would have been able to recover against the doctor or hospital responsible. Rather than freeing doctors and hospitals of these obligations if and when a patient dies, survivor actions require the doctor or hospital responsible to pay the appropriate pain and suffering damages to the deceased patient’s estate.