A surgeon standing next to a gavel and scale that represent justice in court against malpractice or wrongful dealth.

When it comes to medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits, it’s essential to understand the differences between the two. While both lawsuits are generally filed due to negligence or wrongdoing by a medical professional, they have distinct contrasts according to California law.

Malpractice Explained

Malpractice is a legal action that may be brought against a medical professional or healthcare provider who breached their duty of care. This means that a healthcare provider fails to provide the level of care that a reasonable expert in their field is expected to perform. 

Malpractice can occur in several different ways, including: 

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Surgical errors
  • Medication errors
  • Improper use of medical equipment
  • General negligence
  • Failure to follow procedures 
  • Failure to obtain informed consent

To prove malpractice in California, the injured party must prove three elements in court:

  • The medical professional had a duty to provide a certain level of care
  • They breached that duty
  • The breach of duty caused personal injuries or other damages

Although no two malpractice cases are ever the same, injured parties can seek to recover medical bills, lost wages, and even emotional damages through a claim or lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Explained

Wrongful death is a legal action filed whenever someone dies as a result of someone else’s negligence.

In the context of medical malpractice, wrongful death can occur when a medical professional’s actions (or inactions) result in the death of a patient. 

Although medical malpractice always results in injury, fatalities are far less common. Nonetheless, fatalities caused by medical errors continue to be a cause for concern, and

hospitals and their staff can be held accountable under the law.

Common Examples of Malpractice and Wrongful Death

There are many ways that a medical professional’s behavior can contribute to malpractice injuries and fatalities. Injuries abound whenever doctors, nurses, and hospital staff fail to follow safety protocols or make an avoidable mistake.


It’s not uncommon for a healthcare provider to incorrectly diagnose a patient’s condition. When this occurs, the wrong treatment may be administered or the condition can worsen. In other cases, medical staff may fail to diagnose a condition altogether, which can be a catalyst for severe problems and complications.

Surgical Errors

Surgeries can often go amiss and lead to injuries and even death. Often, a doctor may perform a mistaken procedure or operate on the wrong body part. With little room for error, even a minor mishap during surgery can lead to severe injuries, including nerve damage, paralysis, amputation, and death. 

Medication Errors

Personal injuries and death can occur when a healthcare provider prescribes the wrong medicine or dosage or fails to properly administer anesthetics for a surgical procedure. 

In other cases, hospital staff can forget to screen patients for allergies or medication sensitivities. 

Holding Medical Professionals Accountable

Although medical malpractice and wrongful death often share similar qualities, these unique lawsuits must comply with their own specific set of laws and procedures.

California law is on your side if a negligent medical professional injures you or a loved one. Contact Steinberg Injury Lawyers to learn more about how you can hold medical staff accountable for their negligence.

Peter Steinberg
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Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Since 1982
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