What’s the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice?

Wrongful death lawsuits and medical malpractice claims often overlap. However, there is a distinct difference between these two types of civil actions. Here, we want to properly define wrongful death lawsuits as well as medical malpractice claims. Wrongful death claims arise in many different ways, which can include medical malpractice. It is crucial for those who lose a loved one due to the actions of others to understand what steps to take to recover compensation for their losses. In order to understand these steps, they have to know what type of claim they are dealing with.

What's the difference between wrongful death and medical malpractice?

What is Wrongful Death in Illinois?

When we look at Illinois law, we can see that wrongful death claims arise if a person loses their life as a result of another party’s “wrongful act, neglect or default.” Wrongful death claims in this state can be brought in any situation where the individual who lost their life would have been able to file a personal injury claim had they survived the incident (740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/1 (2021).

We can see that wrongful death cases arise in various ways throughout the state of Illinois. Some of the most common causes of wrongful death lawsuits in this state include the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Commercial truck accidents
  • Intentional acts, including criminal activity
  • Premises liability incidents
  • Defective product incidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective medical devices
  • Defective prescription medications

Medical Malpractice Can Lead to a Wrongful Death Claim

Medical malpractice cases are not wrongful death claims, though incidents of medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, we can see that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Preventable medical errors occur in a wide variety of ways, including the following:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failure to diagnose 
  • Delayed treatment
  • Surgical mistakes
  • Hospital-acquired infections
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Giving the wrong medication
  • Prescribing the wrong dosage of a medication
  • Birth injuries

The vast majority of medical mistakes do not lead to the death of a patient, but they can. Johns Hopkins researchers say that as many as 250,000 people lose their lives each year as a result of medical errors. When a medical error is severe enough, it could lead to a case of wrongful death.

Who Can File These Claims in Illinois?

Any person who sustains an injury or illness as a result of a medical error will be able to file a lawsuit against the alleged negligent medical provider or agency. However, for instances of wrongful death in Illinois, the person harmed will clearly not be able to file the claim. In these cases, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim on behalf of the family members and the estate.

Working With an Attorney

Regardless of whether or not we are discussing a medical malpractice claim or a wrongful death lawsuit, it is crucial for victims and family members to work with a Chicago wrongful death attorney. These cases can become incredibly complicated, particularly when going up against aggressive insurance carriers and at-fault parties. An attorney will be able to investigate every aspect of the claim, gather the evidence needed to prove liability, and help family members or an estate recover the compensation they are entitled to.