Friday, December 4, 2009

Wrongful Death Claim: Making the Best Out of a Tragedy

On July 26, 2006, 49-year old Michael Woods went to the emergency room at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island because he had a sore throat and was vomiting.

Michael, who happened to be the younger brother of Oscar nominated actor, James Woods, died of a heart attack three hours later while he was left to wait for an available room on a gurney in a hallway outside of the nurses’ station.

The family, who felt bitter and angry over their perception that the hospital did not do enough to save Michael, filed a case for negligence and wrongful death against Kent Hospital.

The suit was instituted by James Woods and the son of his brother, Peyton Woods.

It was only this December that the wrongful death claim was settled with the Woods family. Sandra Coletta, the hospital’s Chief Executive apologized for Michael’s death because of medical mistakes made in Michael’s case and gave the family an undisclosed amount.

The settlement received by the Woods family which would allegedly help finance the education of the three children left behind by Michael. A “Michael J. Woods Institute” will also be set up at Kent Hospital in memory of Michael’s death.

$1.25 million will be invested by the hospital into the institute over the next five years on its research on human factors that will look into reducing the risk of errors based on human behavior and decision-making.

In a statement, the family said that the family is trying to make the best of a horrible tragedy.

Wrongful death claims are often the best way for the aggrieved family members to move on following the death of a loved one.

While it may not bring back the life of their mother, their father or their brother, for many families who have lost their breadwinner, the compensation received from a wrongful death claim will help fill the void left behind by the death of the person who supported their family.

Medical malpractice in particular, can be a valid ground for filing a wrongful death claim. While having a foundation or an institute established in the name of their deceased loved one is rare, the victim’s family may expect to receive wrongful death compensation such as:

• Medical and funeral expenses
• Loss of the deceased’s expected earnings between the time of the death and the expected retirement or death
• Loss of benefits like pension plans, medical coverage, and the like
• Loss of inheritance
• Damages for mental anguish or pain and suffering of the surviving family
• Loss of care, protection, nurturing, and companionship
• Punitive Damages