Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against Hospitals
Illness and injuries are an unfortunate part of life. Most people will visit a hospital for treatment at least once in their lifetimes. But sometimes misconduct or mistakes by a hospital or healthcare professional can result in the premature death of a patient. The law offers a remedy for the families of those wrongfully killed due to negligence. Read on to learn more about wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals.
About Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A wrongful death case is a lawsuit brought by the surviving spouse or other surviving family members of someone who has died due to negligence. Negligence occurs when a party breaches their duty of care. Hospitals owe a duty of care to their patients.
Hospital negligence happens when medical providers commit medical errors that cause patients injury or death. The surviving family members may have a wrongful death claim in these cases. These sorts of lawsuits are often filed after the following:
- Negligent homicide
- An accident
- Injury resulting in death
If a hospital is a named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit, the case likely involves a claim of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice happens when a health care provider's treatment of a particular patient deviates from the established professional standard of care. And the patient suffers injuries or dies as a result.
Victims of medical malpractice can sue the hospital itself. They can also sue individuals, such as
- Other hospital staff
- Other health care providers employed by the hospital
Medical malpractice cases form the basis of wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals. Medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits often involve negligent conduct, including:
- Misdiagnosis of an illness or other condition
- Mistakes in prescribing or administering medications
- Medical negligence in caring for patients
- Surgical errors
- Failure to give proper treatment
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The personal representative of the decedent's estate or one of the decedent's immediate family members can sue. Each state has laws that set the requirements and eligibility for wrongful death suits. Check with a wrongful death attorney or medical malpractice lawyer in your state for more information.
Plaintiffs can seek different types of compensation, such as monetary damages and non-economic damages, including:
- Reimbursement for medical bills/medical expenses
- Funeral expenses and burial costs or cremation
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
The court sometimes awards plaintiffs punitive damages. If the defendant committed gross negligence, the court may want to punish them.
The Decision to Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death
The decision to include a hospital as a defendant often turns on the level of malpractice insurance the individual doctor in question carries. If the amount of insurance is insufficient to cover all damages, it may be best to include the hospital as a named defendant.
Some surgeons are “independent contractors." In that case, the hospital might argue it is not liable because the surgeon is not an employee. But the hospital could be on the hook because it gave the doctor privileges to operate there.
There are circumstances where a hospital acts negligently independent of the actions of a medical professional. For this reason, it also makes sense to include the hospital in a wrongful death lawsuit.
For example, hospitals can be negligent in the following:
- Hiring and supervising employees
- Sustaining appropriate levels of staffing
- Maintaining and repairing equipment
- Providing an adequate environment for proper patient care and treatment
- Generally overseeing medical care at the hospital.
A hospital may also be liable for the death of a patient as a result of a failure to establish safe protocols for things like hand washing, sanitation, sterilization, waste disposal, and labeling. In this event, including a hospital as a defendant in a wrongful death action would make sense.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Evidence
If you consult with a personal injury attorney, they will advise you on the evidence that proves your case. Medical malpractice attorneys use facts from medical records and expert witness testimony to prove your case. You must show the connection between the hospital's negligence and your loved one's cause of death.
Statute of Limitations
If you consult with a personal injury attorney, they will tell you what evidence proves your case. Each state has a statute of limitations that sets the time limit a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. Most statutes of limitations for wrongful death are generally for two or three years. For instance, in New York, you have two years from the date of the decedent's death to file your claim. But states differ.
Get Legal Help With Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against a Hospital
If you've lost a loved one and you believe that the negligence of a healthcare provider or hospital contributed to the death, you may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. So you fully understand your important legal rights, consider speaking with an experienced medical malpractice or personal injury attorney near you.
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Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.