One of the requirements for a medical malpractice lawsuit is that the patient filing it must have suffered some harm as a result of a doctor's or other health care professional's error, that constitutes the basis of the lawsuit. An unfortunate possibility is that the harm suffered may ultimately become fatal in nature.
If the patient dies as a result of medical malpractice, then it may be possible for the patient's family members to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit against the treating physician, the hospital or health care institution he or she worked for, or both. As long as the deceased patient would have had the right to have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit before he or she died, that right can transfer to his or her legal survivors.
Another consideration that may arise when examining medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits is how their respective statutes of limitations can affect the time that plaintiffs have to commence legal action:
- A lawsuit for medical malpractice must commence within either two years from the date that the plaintiff first discovers the injury or should reasonably have discovered it, and in either event not later than three years after the date of the alleged act of medical malpractice.
- A wrongful death lawsuit must be initiated within two years after the date of death, and not more than five years after the act that caused the death.
The significance of these two statutory limitation periods is that if a patient dies as a result of medical malpractice after the expiration of the medical malpractice statute of limitations, it may still be possible for family members to file a wrongful death action based on the same act of malpractice.
An attorney experienced with Utah personal injury law can help to identify how much time plaintiffs have to commence legal action in either event.