- Other Law
Do I have a wrongful death suit?
In May of 2009 my husband passed away from a heroin overdose. A few years before this (I believe it was 2005 but not certain) he was injured while working for Norfolk Southern Railroad, sustaining a broken shoulder and several broken ribs, he sued the railroad and it was settled out of court. The doctor that my husband went to prescribed lortab 10, Valium and morphine for the pain. As my husband became more and more and more addicted to these drugs he started taking more and more of them at a time, his personality also began to change. He was sometimes violent towards me and the children, especially if he had run out of meds. It became so bad that we separated, but did not divorce. It was sometime after we separated that the pills alone were not working for him and he turned to heroin, also my daughter had told me that he had failed a drug test at the doctors office cut him off the meds because he failed a drug trust, even though the doctor is the one that caused the addiction. I have been unable to verify this because the doctor will not release the medical records to me. If not for the railroad and this doctor my husband would never have become addicted opiates and he would still be alive, my children would still have their father. Do I have a case?
I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sure it was devastating to you and your family. But I think you need to move on. This happened two years ago and you seem to be obsessing over trying to affix blame on someone else.
I don't believe you have a chance of winning such a case. You would have to prove the doctor was negligent in not monitoring his condition enough to prevent his addiction. That would be extremely hard to prove. If he turned to other drugs rather then rehab, that was HIS decision.
Originally Posted by donnaholt59
I don't think you do. That doesn't mean I think the doctor WASN'T negligent. I do. I just think that in today's climate, you'd have a VERY hard time winning. I'd be happy to be WRONG, though. That's why I suggest you run it by a few malpractice attorney's. They won't charge you to assess your case...
You could shop around for a VERY smart medical malpractice lawyer on a contingency basis, who might be able to go back to the injury and determine that the surgery, physical therapy, and other rehab were inadequate, forcing him to continue with addicting drugs long past when he should have. He would need a squeaky clean past of course.
I think it might be worth asking. Contingency lawyers will say yes or no in a short meeting.
(Can a wife be refused a dead husband's records?)
More than likely not.
Originally Posted by donnaholt59
Against the railroad, in the settlement did you sign a release?
Against the doctor, as others have said, consult with a medical malpractice attorney. It does seem likely that you would be able to discover the doctor's records. One thing you didn't mention was cause of death. I take it the Heroin addiction had something to do with it, but you failed to say.
For the doctor you will have to prove that he did something that did not follow proper medical procedure. He did drug testing, gave medication according to pain. Cut him off when he was showing signs of illegal drug use.
Perhaps you can sue the person who sold him the illegal drugs, since that was the cause.
Many people get addicted to prescription drugs, and if cut off, need to get withdrawal help, shop for another doctor to give you drugs, or buy illegal. If he took too much, I can't see where this is really anyone's problem but his
Medical malpractice cases are NOT usually taken on contingency basis unless it's a clear cut case of the surgeon left an instrument inside the person he operated on for instance. It takes a lot of money to properly prepare and prove a medical mal case and most attorneys are not willing to front the money needed for experts to review the case and testify in court.
And to now sue a doctor for originally prescribing these meds in the first place, where were you and what did you do to discourage this doctor from prescribing the opiates? Also your husband made his choice to continue with the opiates. Did you try to stop him and have him enter a rehab facility or did you ever call or visit the original doctor and advise him that your husband is now using street drugs? Probably not.
You sadly have no case here as doctors are getting harder and harder to sue for prescribing pain meds or even antidepressants. Doctors don't treat people, doctors addict people to pain meds and antidepressants every day and get away with it.
I don't see that anyone is responsible for your late husband's addictions other than your late husband. If you can PROVE that the prescribing Physician did not do something he should have done OR did something he should not have done you might have a case. I honestly don't see it.
A lot of people suffer serious injuries and don't become addicts, particularly heroin addicts.
You have a "but for" case - "but for" the accident, "but for" the painkillers he would still be alive. "But for" does not make a lawsuit.
I'm sorry for your loss - it sounds like the entire period was a nightmare but I don't see that anyone was responsible for the addiction that (apparently) killed your husband.
You say you settled with the railroad - you must have used the services of an Attorney for that case. Call that Attorney (who already knows you) and ask. He presumably knew the circumstances and knows your State Laws.
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