In some situations involving unacceptable medical care that harmed a patient, it is necessary to sue the hospital. There are several theories to sue the hospital under, but which ones available to you will all depend on what happened in your case. The hospital will usually be a named defendant in addition to any doctors or other medical professionals involved in the plaintiff’s care.
If the hospital or any of their staff made a serious medical error and someone gets injured or dies, then the patient may want to consider suing the hospital where they received treatment. As such, there are several instances when someone could sue a hospital.
One example that would warrant litigation against a hospital is when a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis. Others include making a dangerous call during surgery that violates the appropriate standard of care, wrongful death, and negligent actions by a staff member like forgetting to take routine vitals.
Can I Sue a Hospital for a Doctor’s Mistakes?
Yes, a patient can still sue the hospital for a doctor’s mistake. If a doctor or other staff member makes a mistake then the hospital can still be found liable as their employer. This is known as vicarious liability.
However, if the doctor is not directly employed by the hospital but instead works on a contract or floating basis, then the hospital may not be an appropriate defendant. But that does not mean you never can sue a hospital in these situations. You should check your jurisdiction’s laws on this matter, as it varies between the states.
The main party in a hospital lawsuit is generally the physician or other primary medical professional that acted negligently. The hospital and other supporting staff involved in treatment are usually just additional parties. A personal injury lawyer can help you decide whether to just sue a hospital or name other defendants as well.
What are the Main Theories to Sue a Hospital?
The most common legal theory used to sue a hospital is medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is when a medical professional acts negligent when treating a patient and they are injured as a result. These individuals will be held to a higher standard of care, which will depend on their type of profession/job title. As noted, the hospital can face liability as the employer in these situations.
Another typical legal theory you can bring against a hospital is common negligence or hospital negligence. Other theories where a hospital could be a named defendant include products liability, wrongful death, and discrimination.
You will need to check your jurisdiction’s laws to see which causes of action are available against hospitals. As always, the facts of your case will dictate whether you have viable causes of action.
What are Some Examples of Hospital Negligence?
Generally, the elements of hospital negligence are the hospital owed a duty of care that they failed to follow, the hospital breached that duty either directly or through the actions of their employees, and injury resulted to the plaintiff.
Some examples of direct hospital negligence include failing to ensure that a treating doctor had a valid medical license, maintaining not enough staff to adequately treat patients, and compromising patient confidentiality.
Examples of vicarious hospital negligence include everything else, like birth injuries or a botched surgical procedure.
What are the Steps to Take to Sue a Hospital?
The steps for suing a hospital will depend on what the jurisdiction requires. You should first check whether your insurance policy or the hospital’s insurance policy has any special requirements. For example, when suing a hospital for negligence, some healthcare providers (like Kaiser) require the person to submit to mandatory arbitration.
This means that before the person can file a civil lawsuit, they will need to go through mandatory arbitration. This is when the dispute is put before an arbitrator, who is a neutral third-party. The arbitrator listens to both sides, looks at the evidence, and tries to help the parties reach a resolution. If they do not reach a resolution then the injured party can still file a civil lawsuit if they desire.
Mandatory arbitration is not always required. If the injured party decides to file a claim, they will just need to go through the standard steps for filing a lawsuit. This includes filing an initial complaint, gettive service on the parties, and surviving any motions to dismiss that the hospital or other defendants may bring. After all of that, the case will proceed to litigation and ultimately trial if there is no settlement or dismissal for other reasons
How Long Do I Have to Sue for Medical Malpractice?
Your state’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice will dictate the time limit to bring a lawsuit against hospitals. This is generally 2-3 years from the date of the injury or when the injury was discovered. However, it can be more or less time depending on what your state requires for bringing a lawsuit against hospitals.
For example, say you underwent back surgery on August 1, 2020 and were paralyzed as a result. This was due to the doctor and staff’s failure to perform the surgery according to the standard of care. The medical malpractice statute of limitations for your state is 3 years, and in this situation it would start running on the date of your surgery. As such, you would have until August 1, 2023 to sue the hospital for medical malpractice.
What are Some Legal Remedies Involved in a Hospital Lawsuit?
If you are successful in your hospital lawsuit, you will have some legal remedies available, both economic and non-economic. Common damages include money to compensate your losses from the injury, like for medical bills and time you needed to take off of work. You could also be entitled to other damages like pain and suffering, loss of domestic services, punitive damages, loss of consortium, and emotional distress.
Additionally, you should find out whether your state has a damages cap for medical malpractice lawsuits. As of 2020, 29 states have damages caps for medical malpractice lawsuits. The other 21 states do not set any cap for medical malpractice damages.
Sometimes it is a blanket cap while other times it will just apply to a certain type of lawsuit or category of damages. For example, while New Mexico sets a cap of $600,000 this does not apply to punitive damages. Another unique state is Maine where they do not have an outright damages cap for medical malpractice cases, but do apply a $500,000 umbrella cap for wrongful death lawsuits.
Can I Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death?
Yes, your estate can sue a hospital for your wrongful death. In a wrongful death action, the plaintiff’s estate will generally need to prove that the wrongful actions hospital and/or medical providers were the cause of the deceased person’s death.
The reason an estate may wish to bring a wrongful death lawsuit is to hold the parties responsible for the person’s death accountable and to compensate the person’s beneficiaries for any losses that resulted. Some available damages include loss of companionship, loss of household services, and funeral expenses.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue a Hospital?
If you have been injured and want to look into suing a hospital, it would be wise to hire a personal injury lawyer to help with your case. A lawyer can review the facts and let you know what causes of action are available and can also help negotiate a settlement on your behalf.
Also keep in mind that there are some benefits to working with a hospital malpractice attorney. The hospital probably does not want any negative exposure and may be willing to negotiate a settlement on your behalf to limit this. Having your lawyer work with the hospital attorney can help you get compensation for your injuries.