Recovering for fatal medical errors in Oregon

If a loved one is harmed by a medical or surgical error, he or she has a right to seek compensation for the harm done in a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, what happens if he or she is killed from the medical error? In these cases, certain family members of the decedent as well as the decedent's estate have the right to recover for the financial and emotional losses suffered by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

In Oregon, a wrongful death occurs when a party's "wrongful act or omission" causes the death of another person. In most cases, a wrongful death is one that is caused by a party's reckless, negligent or intentional act-the same type of acts that would allow the deceased to claim compensation in a personal injury lawsuit had he or she lived. Medical malpractice is only one example of when a wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate. Fatal car accidents, workplace accidents and death caused by dangerous products are other common instances warranting such a lawsuit.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil, not criminal, action. As such, the main goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is to recover monetary damages. Although the party responsible for the death may also face criminal charges for the role in the death, it is a separate proceeding that does not determine the right to file or the outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful death in Oregon

In Oregon, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is determined by statute. In general, this type of lawsuit must be filed by the personal representative (also known as executor) of the decedent's estate. The personal representative sues on behalf of parties that are eligible to recover damages, as well as the estate itself. Under the law, parties eligible to recover are close family members including: spouses, children and parents. In some cases, more distant relatives such as stepchildren, stepparents and grandparents may recover compensation as well.

Under the wrongful death laws, the decedent's estate and family members may recover compensation for several types of losses including:

• Charges for doctor, hospital, nursing and other medical services

• Funeral and burial expenses

• Pain and suffering endured by deceased just before death

• Loss of present and future wages and benefits

• Loss of comfort, guidance, care and companionship suffered by family members

• Punitive damages-in cases where the death was caused by extremely negligent, reckless or intentional conduct

Any damages recovered are first used to pay for the costs of bringing the lawsuit, then for the payment of medical and funeral costs. After this is done, the damages are distributed to the eligible parties entitled to recover damages in proportions determined by law.

An attorney can help

Although a wrongful death lawsuit is an incomplete remedy in that it cannot bring your loved one back, it can provide the compensation necessary to more easily carry on with your life. Since wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within a certain time limit, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible when faced with a negligent death . An attorney can review your legal options with you and assist you with recovering the compensation that you are entitled to.