Wrongful Death Due To Medical Malpractice

At Hoffer & Sheremet, our experienced attorneys help families that have lost a loved one due to a doctor, hospital, nurse, or other healthcare provider’s negligence. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about wrongful death lawsuits. For a detailed explanation of the law and procedures governing wrongful death lawsuits, please read our article Wrongful Death 101.

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

If your loved one was injured by a negligent act, such as by a physician or hospital employee, and died as a result, you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit on behalf of their estate.  Examples of wrongful death claims in Michigan include:  

  • The loss of an unborn baby due to medical negligence of a labor and delivery nurse or obstetrician 
  • Loss of a baby as a result of injury during the birthing process
  • Death of a mother during labor and delivery  
  • Delayed diagnosis of cancer resulting in death 
  • Failure to timely diagnose a bowel perforation resulting in infection, sepsis, and death  
  • Surgical error causing death 
  • Medication error causing death  

Birth injuries, surgical errors, delays in diagnoses, medication errors, and other errors can be medical malpractice when the patient lives, but is seriously injured. When the patient does not survive, the medical malpractice claim becomes a wrongful death claim.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits in Michigan are brought by the Personal Representative of the patient’s estate. The Personal Representative must be approved by the Probate Court and is typically a surviving spouse, parent, or sibling.  The personal representative is the face of the lawsuit, working with the legal team at Hoffer & Sheremet, and keeps other family members informed throughout litigation.   

How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Calculating the filing deadline in wrongful death lawsuits is very complex (technically, it is a “savings period”, not a “limitations period”), which is why you should be sure to hire an experienced wrongful death / medical malpractice law firm! In Michigan, a wrongful death claim must be commenced within 2 years of the date the personal representative is appointed and within 3 years after the limitations period has run on the underlying cause of action.  For more information, see Don’t Sleep on Your Rights: Statute of Limitations and Repose.  In theory, then, this means that there is a maximum period under some circumstances of 5 years (if the PR is appointed three years to the date following the malpractice). However, the wrongful death savings period is not tolled during the 182-day mandatory notice-waiting period application to medical malpractice actions. We frequently see legal malpractice cases where filing deadlines were not properly calculated by inexperienced attorneys.

What are the damages in a wrongful death lawsuit in Michigan, and who can recover?

Recoverable damages  are different in each wrongful death case. Typically, the damages include reasonable medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses that the Estate is liable for, conscious pain and suffering by the now deceased individual that occurred between and death.  Additionally, family members, like surviving spouse and children, may be entitled to compensation for loss of financial support and society and companionship of the deceased.   

When the lawsuit is settled or a judgment satisfied after trial, the money received all goes into the patient’s Estate. Certain family members are entitled to share those proceeds. Usually, family members are able to agree on who receives what. But if not, the Court will hold a hearing to determine how the money should be distributed.

If your loved one died following an injury caused by negligence in Michigan, contact Hoffer & Sheremet, PLC at 616.278.0888 to learn more about compensation to which you and your family may be entitled to or fill out our free consultation form