All kinds of mistakes can be made in a hospital. Generally, hospital lawsuits are personal injury lawsuits that arise from injuries suffered by a patient. Usually those injuries are based on negligence, although lawsuits can involve all sorts of legal claims and theories.
Lawsuits involving hospitals most commonly involve some sort of medical malpractice. Under the corporate negligence doctrine, the hospital itself can be responsible for a mistake by a doctor or by the staff employed by the hospital.
Lawsuits may also involve hospital-wide policies that fall below state medical standards. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, hospital lawsuits can involve a large number of patients, turning the claim into a class action lawsuit.
A lawsuit can be filed against a hospital for a wide variety of reasons. Some can be for small incidents, while others can be more far-reaching. These reasons may include:
- Emergency room malpractice or medical malpractice;
- Improperly refusing to admit or treat a patient;
- Violating patient privacy rights;
- Various types of hospital errors; and
- Various insurance-related disputes.
Of course, there are also the garden variety injuries that may occur as well, such as a slip and fall injury. Due to the specific nature of a hospital, oftentimes injuries that result in hospital lawsuits involve several different areas of the law, such as insurance, or contract law.
While a great number of hospital lawsuits involve medical malpractice, each state has its own specific laws that govern medical malpractice and what is required to put together a hospital lawsuit in these cases.
If someone is an employee of a hospital, the hospital itself is typically responsible if that employee hurts someone by acting incompetently or negligently. Nurses, medical technicians, and support staff are all hospital employees.
If these employees were doing something job-related when they caused the patient’s injury, the hospital is likely responsible for the injury. However, this may not be the case if the employee makes the mistake while under a doctor’s supervision.
If a doctor makes a mistake and injures a patient while working in the hospital, the hospital may not be responsible for the injury if the doctor is not employee of the hospital. This can get tricky, because it depends largely on the nature of the doctor’s relationship with the hospital.
While some doctors are hospital employees, many are legally considered “independent contractors,” which means that if a patient is injured in the doctor’s care at the hospital, the hospital is not responsible for the injury. Rather, the doctor is responsible–and this can be the case even if the injury occurred at the hospital and the doctor is officially connected with the hospital.
As with so many legal issues, there are exceptions to this rule, which is why it is important to gather the facts of your case and consult a qualified attorney before filing a lawsuit. The right attorney can help you figure out who is at fault for the injury, and the best way to move forward with your case.
Many states hold the hospital responsible if it give staff privileges to an incompetent or dangerous doctor, even if the doctor is legally considered an independent contractor. The hospital can also be responsible for patient injuries caused by a particular doctor if it knew or should have known that a previously safe doctor has become incompetent or dangerous.
For example, if hospital management is aware that a doctor has become severely addicted to drugs, or the doctor’s addiction has become so obvious that management should have known about it, a patient injured by that doctor can probably sue the hospital for their injuries.
Hospital lawsuits based on the negligent actions of an employee or staff member will typically result in a monetary award, intended to offset the plaintiff’s financial losses caused by the injury. The monetary award may cover hospital bills, medical therapy, pharmaceutical costs, and insurance fees.
Depending on the circumstances, they can also cover related losses such as lost wages (more likely if the injury caused the victim to lose their job or take significant time away from work). Monetary damages awards are not intended as revenge on the hospital. Rather, they are intended to make the plaintiff “whole,” and put them in as good a position as possible as if the injury had not happened.
In very serious cases, the plaintiff may win a monetary award, but there may be other repercussions as well. The hospital may be required to review and revise their standards for practice and operating procedures. Large class action lawsuits may result in investigations into the hospital’s overall safety standards, or product recalls if the lawsuit involved defective or faulty drugs or medical devices.
If you have been injured during a visit or stay at a hospital, you may want to consult an experienced personal injury attorney. These types of cases (especially if they involve issues of medical malpractice) can become very complicated very quickly, and you will want to make sure that you have the expert guidance of a qualified professional.
The right attorney can help you talk through your situation, gather the proper documentation and evidence required for the case, and file your lawsuit. Your attorney can advise you regarding your legal rights, and represent you in court to make sure that you get the best possible outcome.