Wrongful Death Damages for Medical Malpractice December 17, 2012.

Types of Wrongful Death Damages

When a family files a wrongful death lawsuit, it can pursue economic damages for expenses such as medical bills and funeral costs. The family may also pursue damages for the victim’s loss of income. This amount is based on how many more years the victim would have worked if he or she were still alive. If the victim had retirement benefits or medical insurance, the family may be compensated for those as well.

The family can also file a claim for non-economic damages, such as grief and mental anguish as well as loss of companionship and care.

Punitive damages may be awarded in extreme cases of gross negligence, but the victim’s family must prove that the healthcare provider’s behavior was intentional or reckless. Some states have limits for punitive damages, while others allow the jury to award what they feel is fair based on the circumstances. In Ohio, the limit is twice the amount of compensatory damages awarded, based on the state’s statutes.

Examples of Wrongful Death Settlements for Medical Malpractice

Unfortunately, even those who work for medical facilities are not immune to medical malpractice. In 2001, attorney Chris Mellino and his former partner settled a $2.5 million wrongful death lawsuit in which "[t]he decedent worked for the defendant hospital as an activities director in the skilled nursing facility," as Ohio Lawyers Weekly reported. "On September 29, 1999, she went to the hospital’s emergency department, where she complained of an ear ache and a headache. She was diagnosed with a left ear infection, prescribed the antibiotic Zithromax, and was instructed to seek further medical attention if her condition became worse."

Over the next few days, the 32-year-old woman returned to the hospital twice with worsening symptoms, but doctors gave her the wrong dose of Demerol and Compazine and neglected to run tests, such as a CT scan. She ultimately died of meningitis.

In another case, a 71-year-old woman was being treated for gastrointestinal symptoms when her internist ran an EKG that showed she was having a heart attack. The internist instructed the woman to go to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to be admitted; she also called CCF and told a resident that the woman was on her way and should be given a monitored bed.

That resident went home before the patient arrived, so the woman was given an unmonitored bed, and her life was placed in the hands of an intern rather than a physician.

"[The intern] testified that she was totally unaware of the abnormal EKG or the urgent need for a cardiac work-up," Verdicts, Settlements & Tactics reported. "The resident who allegedly spoke with [the internist] has no recollection of the conversation."

The patient died the next day when her ventricle ruptured. The jury awarded a $1,073,000 verdict.