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Hospital Errors and Medical Malpractice

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What Are Hospital Errors?

Hospital errors are any mistakes that are committed by people employed by a hospital, and the hospital may be liable for these mistakes under the corporate negligence doctrine. These employees can include doctors, physicians, surgeons, nurses, administrative staff, and clerks. When discussing hospital errors, most people are usually thinking about a medical malpractice claim. However, you should keep in mind that not all hospital errors can necessarily be called medical malpractice.

In order for malpractice to occur, it needs to be shown that the hospital employee was negligent in someway. This means that the employee owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, and they breached that duty of care, resulting in injury or economic loss to the plaintiff. Also, the error generally needs to be related to medical treatment or the performing of a medical procedure in order to constitute medical malpractice.

Thus, not all hospital errors can qualify as medical malpractice. For example, if a janitor employed by the hospital used the wrong cleaning tools, it probably would not be considered medical malpractice because it is not necessarily related to the practice of medicine. However, it would still qualify as a hospital error because the janitor's mistake may still result in harm to someone in the hospital.

What Are Some Common Hospital Errors?

One major hospital error is the failure to inform the patient of all the risks involved in a particular treatment, surgery, procedure, or medication. Another is failing to obtain the patient’s consent to perform a surgery, even after they have been informed of the risks. The two of these together form the basis of informed consent lawsuits.

Other common hospital errors are:

  • Diagnosis Issues: Misdiagnosis can be problematic and can lead to other errors.
  • Medication Injuries: This can include prescribing the wrong medicines or wrong dosages, or providing expired, outdated, or recalled medicines.
  • Anesthesia Errors: These errors may involve failing to warn of dangers, administering wrong dosages, or disregarding patient allergies to anesthesia.
  • Childbirth Injuries: These injuries often result from the negligence of a nurse in providing pre-natal care or the negligence of a doctor during child birth, resulting in a birth injury to the infant or mother.
  • Surgery Errors: Again, the most common error with surgery is failing to obtain the patient’s informed consent.  Other surgical errors include performing the wrong treatment, or leaving foreign objects in the patient’s body, such as a sponge.
  • Emergency Room Malpractice: This usually involves the emergency room staff refusing to admit or treat a patient.

Keep in mind that there are many other different types of hospital injuries that can occur. Also, medical malpractice laws can vary widely by state, which means that these violations may be treated differently according to jurisdiction.

What Are Possible Legal Remedies for Hospital Errors?

Most hospital error medical malpractice claims will result in a damages award to the injured plaintiff. The damages award will likely reimburse the plaintiff for their losses, including:

  • Any additional medical expenses resulting from the error
  • Extra hospital bills
  • Lost wages, if the injury caused the person to miss work
  • Loss of earning capacity, if the person can no longer earn as much due to the injury
  • Other costs such as court fees and attorney’s fees
  • Pain and suffering
  • If the error involved extreme recklessness, punitive damages are sometimes awarded

Finally, some states may limit the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover for medical malpractice. This is to help reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits that are filed in connection with hospital errors.

Do I Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?

Hospital errors can often result in very serious injuries and losses. If you believe that you have been affected by a hospital error, you may need to hire a personal injury lawyer. A highly qualified attorney in your area will be able to provide you with legal advice, and can help you file a lawsuit to recover your losses. Your lawyer can be on hand to represent you during the court proceedings.

Photo of page author Kristen Johnson

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 08-20-2017 10:12 PM PDT

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