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Can You Sue a Hospital for Negligence?
What You Need to Know

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If you have been mistreated, hospital employees made incorrect judgments or a close family member died while under their care, you have legal options to pursue. 

As a medical malpractice lawyer, I’ve worked on several personal injury cases directly related to hospital negligence. 

In this article, I’ll tell you all you need to know about suing a hospital for negligence.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Medical negligence is usually the motivation for most medical malpractice claims in which the victim alleges harm due to the healthcare professional’s carelessness
  • You can sue anyone in the hospital who was responsible for your injury, but you must be able to prove it
  • There are time limits to filing a medical malpractice claim

What is Medical Negligence?

Doctors working on a patient in a hospital

Medical negligence is the unintentional, incorrect, or unskilled treatment of a patient by a healthcare professional or hospital employee. This may range from negligent nurse care to medical mistakes made by doctors, surgeons, medical technicians, pharmacists, dentists, and other healthcare professionals [1].

Medical negligence is usually the motivation for a medical malpractice case in which the victim alleges harm due to the healthcare professional’s carelessness.

Examples of Medical Negligence by Hospital Employees

  • Transfering the wrong blood type.
  • The hospital employee inadvertently removed the wrong testicle.
  • A fertility clinic used the wrong sperm.
  • Surgical instruments were left inside the abdomen.
  • Failure to diagnose correctly.
  • Failure to provide quality medical treatment.
  • Lack of Staffing.
  • Providing patients with the wrong medication.

“Failure of a doctor and hospital to discharge this obligation is essentially a tortious liability. A tort is a civil wrong (right in rem) against a contractual obligation (right in personam) – a breach that attracts judicial intervention by awarding damages.”
M. S. Pandit, Corporate Advocate

 

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Who Can Be Sued in the Hospital?

A doctor holding a judge's gavel

You can sue any hospital employee in the hospital who was responsible for your injury. However, we need to prove that the person at fault had a legal duty to care for you and breached that duty, which caused your injuries. The most common defendants are:

The Doctor

You must show that the doctor-patient relationship existed and that they were negligent in their diagnosis or treatment. 

Keep in mind that hospitals also have no legal obligation to pay medical malpractice damages if a hospital employee commits malpractice while following a doctor’s instructions.

The Hospital

You can sue the hospital for the negligent actions of its employees or medical technicians. The doctrine of “respondeat superior” applies here. 

This legal principle states that an employer is liable for the wrongful acts of its employees committed while working within the scope of their employment.

When Can You Sue a Hospital?

Two people complaining to a personYou can sue the hospital two or three years after sustaining the injury but the time limit starts at different times in different forms.

Several states have a “discovery rule,” which means the statute of limitations clock does not begin ticking until the injury is or should have been discovered by the patient.

There are different rules for how long you must sue someone for causing an injury in other states. The “continuous treatment” rule means you have a limited time after the doctor who caused the damage stops treating the patient to sue them. This rule is based on when it would be reasonable to discover the injury, not when it occurred.

If you are injured in a hospital and think it was the hospital’s fault, it is essential to speak with medical malpractice lawyers as soon as possible.

To help build your case, you’ll need medical records, dates, job-related mistakes, and other documents.

The Advantages of Suing the Hospital

The advantages of using a hospital where you receive care below the standard of care are twofold:

  • Medical institutions, like hospitals, have more insurance than individuals. This means that if something bad happens to you because of a mistake made by a doctor or nurse, you are more likely to get compensated.
  • If a doctor or surgeon follows the rules but still hurts you, the hospital may have bad rules. Suing the hospital for negligence can help change these bad rules so that no one else gets hurt.

The Disadvantages of Suing the Hospital

Medical pills and a judge's gavel

The disadvantages of using the hospital are that:

  • You might not win your case. If you do not have a good lawyer or if the evidence is not clear, you might not be able to prove that the hospital was at fault
  • Even if you win, you might not get much money. Hospitals usually have insurance, but there is only so much money in the insurance policy. This means that even if you win your case, you might not get compensated as much as you deserve.
  • You might have to go to court. This can be very time-consuming and expensive.
  • You might not be able to sue the hospital if too much time has passed since the injury happened.

Hospital Liability For Non-Employee Doctors

You can also sue the hospital even if the doctor was an independent contractor for the following reasons:

  1. The hospital does not clarify to the patient that the doctor is not a hospital employee. The doctor works for the hospital, and the patient does not employ them; therefore, it is an independent contractor doctor’s malpractice.
  2. If a medical professional is unable, it makes no difference whether they are hospital employees or contractors. If the hospital knows the doctor to be incompetent or dangerous but still employs them and provides access to other personnel, then the facility is responsible.

The problem with doctors who work in an emergency department (ER) is complicated. There’s a chance the hospital won’t be able to inform them that the doctor isn’t employed before the doctor starts treating them. When Emergency room doctors engage in medical misconduct, ER patients may sometimes sue hospitals.

In my experience, for a doctor or hospital to be sued for medical malpractice, the patient must show that they did not receive the appropriate standard of care.

FAQs

What is an example of negligence in the medical field?

An example of negligence in the medical field would be if a doctor failed to diagnose a patient’s cancer.

What are the four elements of medical malpractice?

The four elements of medical malpractice are duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Suit Against the Hospital

If you or a loved one has been injured by medical negligence, you may be able to file a medical malpractice suit against the hospital. Proving medical malpractice and that the hospital was at fault and your injuries were caused by their negligence is crucial in medical malpractice lawsuits.

You should contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your medical malpractice lawsuit and see if you have a valid case. If you want a free consultation with a team of personal injury lawyers who have experience with medical malpractice cases, contact Schmidt & Clark.


References:

  1. https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/what-is-medical-negligence.html

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