June 15, 2019

Can I Sue for Wrongful Death If My Spouse Died Following Routine Surgery?

Losing a loved one is always hard, but it’s even worse when their death was unexpected. It’s natural to look for someone to blame. If your spouse died after what was supposed to be a routine procedure, you may want to hold someone liable for their death.

Maybe you think a doctor, nurse, or medical facility is responsible. If you want to sue someone for wrongful death, you will need to prove your partner’s death was due to negligence. You will need an Alabama personal injury lawyer to assess the strength of your case. They will also represent you if you have grounds for a lawsuit.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? An Alabama Personal Injury Attorney

In some states, close relatives can sue a party for wrongful death. However, under Alabama’s laws, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can do so.

This individual is also called the administrator of the estate. They are usually identified in the deceased’s will.

If there is no will, you as the spouse have the priority to be named as the representative. Damages will be paid to the estate and are usually intended for the spouse and other heirs.

Things an Attorney Will Discuss with Clients

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed when an individual dies because of someone else’s negligence. The defendant can be an individual or a corporation.

If the decedent could’ve filed a personal injury claim if they lived, the estate can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Working with an experienced lawyer can help you with the process.

There are three elements of negligence which you must prove in order to get compensation. These are:

  1. Duty of Care: You must first establish that the defendant owed your spouse a duty of care at the time they died. For example, a doctor has a duty to treat patients with a reasonable standard of care.
  2. Breach of Duty of Care: You must then prove the defendant breached that duty of care through negligence, misconduct, or a deliberate intent to harm.
  3. A Link Between the Breach and the Death: You will also need to show that the defendant’s breach caused your spouse’s death. Their conduct must have hastened or contributed to the death.

This means that not every poor surgical outcome is due to medical negligence. Medical negligence is a specific form of negligence that occurs when healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, or hospital staff, fail to deliver the standard of care that is expected in the medical community, leading to harm to a patient.

Medical negligence becomes actionable when it directly causes an injury or death that could have been avoided with proper care. It can include misdiagnoses, surgical errors, incorrect medication dosages, and failure to inform the patient of the risks of a procedure.

In the tragic instance of wrongful death, determining medical negligence involves a thorough examination of the treatment provided against the accepted medical standards. Your attorney will work to identify the correct defendant and build a strong case.

Unique Factors Which Affect Wrongful Death Cases in Alabama

In most states, you would be able to claim compensatory damages. These include funeral and burial costs, loss of the deceased person’s income and loss of consortium.

The court would calculate the value of the case based on several factors including:

  • The age and health of the deceased
  • The pain and suffering of the victim
  • The value of lost services
  • The family’s expenses

However, the courts in Alabama treat wrongful death cases differently. Survivors can only seek punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish the defendant and serve as a deterrent to other people.

The amount of money you can recover usually depends solely on the extent of the wrongdoing. The jury won’t consider the value of your spouse’s life or how their death impacted you. They will focus on the need to punish the defendant and they may take the defendant’s level of wealth into consideration.

This unique situation makes wrongful death cases in this state quite challenging. Courts usually award punitive damages only in cases of gross negligence, malice, or intentional action. You may find it very difficult to prove that the defendant was at fault.

The good news is that the attorneys at The Vance Law Firm understand these types of cases. Despite the many challenges which are likely to arise, we can help you to make a strong case for compensation.

Contact The Vance Law Firm Today to Discuss Your Case!

If you lost a loved one and you believe their death was due to negligence, call us. We are a team of experienced Alabama personal injury lawyers. We have handled several cases of this nature and we know how the system works. We offer sound legal advice as we guide you through the process.

You should keep in mind that you only have two years to file a wrongful death claim against a private defendant. If you’re using the city, you must file a notice of claim within six months of the death. For claims against the county, you must give notice within one year of the death.

If you want to ensure your case is heard, contact us today and schedule a consultation.

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