How To Sue a Hospital
In medical malpractice law, there are a few scenarios where you can sue a hospital.
- If you are an injured patient in a hospital or medical facility and someone gives you the wrong treatment
- If hospital staff makes a bad call
- If a loved one dies during medical care in a hospital
Although medical professionals are the ones who make the mistake, the hospital manages its employees and their training.
This does not apply to independent contractors. Many doctors in hospitals are independent contractors. If the doctor who injured you is an independent contractor, and their actions are the sole cause of your injuries, you may not be able to sue the hospital.
It is important to know if your healthcare provider is an employee of the hospital or an independent contractor. Sometimes, it's not clear. What happens then?
Reasons You Can Sue a Hospital
You may decide to file a medical malpractice claim against a hospital for injuries you suffered as a result of the following:
- Wrong diagnosis or medical treatment from medical experts
- Medication errors (a doctor prescribed the wrong medication to you, etc.)
- Mistakes made by medical technicians (failure to sanitize equipment, etc.)
- Surgical errors (a surgeon left surgical instruments inside you during surgery, etc.)
- Dangerous or negligent actions by hospital staff (reusing equipment or needles, leaving floors wet, stealing or abusing medications)
- Wrongful death of a family member
- Discrimination (a staff member refusing to treat you due to your race, sexual orientation, nation of origin, etc.)
You generally have two to six years to sue the hospital for negligence. This is the statute of limitations (time limit), and it varies by state.
Suing a Hospital Is Different From Other Medical Malpractice Cases
Sometimes, you can sue a hospital if the doctor is an employee or an independent contractor. This might apply when:
- The hospital does not make it clear the doctor is not an employee (this is usually explained on the admission forms)
- You went to the emergency room (ER) and did not have the time or ability to sign paperwork
- The hospital has inadequate training for hospital employees
- The hospital employs people with behavior issues (like substance abuse problems)
Should I Sue My Doctor?
You may think that because your doctor made a mistake, like a misdiagnosis, you need to go after your doctor in a legal case. This will depend on a few factors:
- Is your doctor an employee or an independent contractor?
- Was the mistake made by nurses, medical tech staff, maintenance, or another hospital employee?
- Did the doctor provide the treatment, and did other staff follow their instructions?
If the person who made a mistake is an independent contractor, you must take them to court individually with a medical malpractice attorney. When filing a lawsuit, your attorney may name the doctor, the hospital, and the medical group, if any, until they know whether the doctor is an independent contractor. This covers all bases. If they are an actual hospital employee who committed medical negligence, then you may have a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital.
It is more common for doctors to be self-employed and only contract at a hospital. They will have to carry their own malpractice insurance, so you would end up fighting their insurance company in court.
It may be possible to prove the hospital is treating the contracting doctor as an employee and is also responsible for your injuries. A lawyer can help you make that distinction and determine whether the hospital is liable.
Getting Proof for a Medical Lawsuit
Medical malpractice is difficult to prove. You need to show:
- The hospital is responsible, and not just the doctor
- The hospital/its medical professionals owed a duty of care to you, and they failed to meet the accepted standard of care
- Their actions resulted in your injuries, and you would not have experienced your injuries otherwise
Determining fault takes expertise and detailed information. You need a medical malpractice lawyer to hear the details of your case and offer legal advice before you can make an educated guess on whether you should sue.
You may need medical records, dates, records of job-related mistakes, and more to help prove your case. Your personal injury attorney will handle the medical malpractice lawsuit and tell you exactly what they need. Without their expertise, it's hard to know what information is relevant.
They may also call expert witnesses for your case. This involves getting another doctor or specialist to discuss what they would have done in your case. If they disagree with how your hospital treated you, it can strengthen your claim against the hospital.
Notable Hospital Negligence Cases
Sometimes, it is easiest to understand by seeing examples. The following are notable cases where someone sued the hospital:
- York Hospital exposed 1,300 patients to bacteria between 2011 and 2015.
- Cancer misdiagnosis led to organ removal and a lengthy cover-up at KU Hospital.
- University of Chicago Medical Center got sued for $53 million because of a birth injury.
- Duke University Hospital got sued in 2003 for never checking the blood type of an organ donor and the recipient before surgery.
- Rhode Island Hospital performed operations on the wrong part of three patients' heads in 2007.
- University of Washington Medical Center left surgical tools inside patients five times in five years.
- A doctor could not find the correct spinal rods for surgery and used a screwdriver instead. The hospital got sued for credentialing the doctor and allowing him to use an operating room.
Reading about these types of cases can cause a lot of anxiety. Severe cases like these are rare, but they can happen. Don't ignore less serious medical problems because they don't seem "serious enough." If your instincts tell you something is wrong, you should investigate your case.
Seeking Legal Advice
A medical malpractice lawyer is the best option to seek justice from a hospital. You deserve justice when a hospital makes a mistake and causes a severe injury or medical condition.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney to make sure your rights are protected.