If you’ve been injured while receiving medical care, can you bring a legal claim against the hospital for medical malpractice?
Often, hospitals are blamed for incompetent care provided by nurses and other medical professionals. But there’s a limit to when hospitals can be held responsible for a doctor’s negligence.
So, can I sue a hospital for malppractice? Let’s look closely at when a hospital is (and is not) responsible for medical malpractice committed by employees and care providers. Read on to find out everything you need to know.
What Is Hospital Malpractice?
Malpractice generally occurs when a medical provider breaches the standard of care. The standard of care is the level of care that a skilled healthcare worker would provide under similar circumstances.
Like you, most people know they can sue the doctor whose malpractice or negligence caused them harm. But the vicarious liability doctrine makes it possible to hold hospitals liable for their employee’s negligence.
That means when a hospital hires physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals, it assumes liability for any negligence on its part.
You should, however, know that if the doctor is classified as an independent contractor, you can only sue the doctor. You can’t have a valid claim against the hospital.
What Kind of Malpractice Can a Hospital Be Sued For?
Malpractice can take different forms. Some types of negligence may be harder to recognize, especially if the patient doesn’t notice the harm until weeks, months, or even years later.
Five of the most common kinds of malpractice that form the ground for suing a hospital include:
Misdiagnosis happens to be the most common of all hospital malpractices. This issue arises when a physician fails to diagnose the patient’s condition correctly.
Misdiagnosis rises to medical malpractice when the patient’s health deteriorates because treatment for their actual condition was not given.
It will also be malpractice if the unnecessary treatment (for the condition that the patient doesn’t have) causes injuries.
2. Delayed Diagnosis
A delayed diagnosis is a malpractice case whereby the hospital or doctor fails to recognize the patient’s condition on time.
Suppose a physician fails to detect a head injury during an ER visit. You might be left with a permanent disability or have to endure chronic pain. Such errors form the grounds for suing a hospital for pain and suffering.
And if the delay in diagnosis causes severe injuries that lead to death, suing a hospital for wrongful death would be much in order.
3. Birth Injuries
Bringing a newborn into the world is one of the experiences that most people cherish. But if the negligence of maternity staff results in birth injuries, the repercussions can be devastating.
Cerebral palsy is one of the common birth injuries that result when the baby is deprived of oxygen during the birth process. In other cases, birth injuries result in the death of the mother or the baby.
So, if you receive improper care that harms you or your baby, don’t hesitate to sue the hospital for negligence.
4. Surgical Errors
So many types of surgical errors can rise to the level of hospital malpractice, including:
- Wrong-site surgery
- Wrong-patient surgery
- Using unsterilized surgical instruments
- Leaving objects inside the patient
- Damaging nerves or organs during surgery
Surgical mistakes can gravely affect the patient’s quality of life and cause long-lasting injuries. Luckily, signing a consent form doesn’t prevent you from pursuing a malpractice claim.
5. Failure to Treat
Sometimes, a patient might receive substandard treatment even after a correct diagnosis. Usually, this occurs when a hospital has many patients and fails to prioritize patient safety.
When doctors have many patients to attend to, the quality of care might be compromised. They might even discharge patients too early and fail to recommend follow-up care.
If your condition worsens afterward, you have grounds for suing the hospital.
What Is the Process of Suing a Hospital for Malpractice?
If a hospital mistake rises to medical malpractice, the victim has a legal right to seek compensation for any injuries. But there are steps that you must take to assert your rights. What you have to do is:
1. Consult with a Malpractice Attorney
A hospital malpractice case is not the legal action you’d try handling alone. These cases range from a legal to a medical and procedural standpoint, so they can be quite complex
Proving your case will need a good mastery of the law as it applies to your case and the types of hoops a plaintiff must jump through, including getting the right expert medical witness.
You can only get through these hoops with an experienced hospital malpractice lawyer.
2. Determine Who is Liable
Even if medical malpractice occurs at a hospital, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can hold the facility responsible.
Perhaps your case involved sub-standard care from an individual doctor who is an independent contractor (not an employee of the hospital). In that case, you should pursue legal action against the doctor himself.
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Generally, you can’t sue a hospital for a doctor’s mistake unless the doctor is an employee or if the hospital hired an incompetent doctor.
3. Gather Medical Records
Hospitals keep patient medical records for several years after treatment. You can always ask for copies of these records when filing any personal injury case.
4. Determine the Value of Your Claim
During negotiations, the hospital might make you an offer to settle the case. It would help if you determined the case’s value beforehand.
Your lawyer should determine all possible losses and harm from the malpractice, including medical treatment, past and future wage loss, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
5. Comply with Procedural Rules
Malpractice laws differ across states. Some states require the victim of hospital malpractice to file an affidavit of merit in which a medical expert supports that you have a viable case.
Other states may require you to agree to some pre-lawsuit alternative dispute resolution (ADR). So, check your state laws or speak to a local medical malpractice lawyer.
6. Draft and File the Complaint
Your hospital malpractice attorney will then draft and file a complaint. The complaint is a formal description of the allegation against the hospital.
After this, the lawsuit will kick-off.
7. Mediation, Negotiation, and Trial
After filing the lawsuit, each side gets an opportunity to hear the arguments of the other. At this point, the parties might call for mediation or negotiation for a possible hospital malpractice settlement.
If so, your attorney will handle the confrontations and negotiate on your behalf. If negotiations fail, the case will be brought to court.
Can I Sue a Hospital for Emotional Distress?
Yes, you can sue a hospital facility for emotional distress. A medical error’s emotional and psychological effect can be just as damaging as the physical injury itself. Examples of emotional harm from malpractice injuries include:
- Weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping
Remember, while suing a hospital for emotional distress is possible, proving these injuries can be quite difficult. That’s because emotional and psychological injuries don’t often manifest physically.
However, a hospital malpractice attorney can help collect evidence of your injuries to support your claim.
How Likely Am I to Win in a Malpractice Case Against a Hospital?
According to Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research, 9 out of 10 malpractice cases are settled without trial. But if the case ends up in court, physicians win 80% to 90% of the time with weak evidence.
Physicians also have a 70% chance of winning with borderline evidence. And even when there is strong evidence of medical malpractice, physicians still win 50% of the trials.
The good thing is, for the 93 percent of malpractice cases that settle, the victim wins compensation without going to court.
That is to say; you have a higher chance of winning a malpractice case against the hospital if you agree to a settlement over a trial.
What Happens If I Settle with the Hospital?
As earlier mentioned, 10% of malpractice claims go to trial before a jury. That means 90% of claims are either dropped, dismissed, or settled.
So, what happens if you settle your malpractice case with the hospital?
Once you agree to settle, the hospital will pay for your damages. There are two ways of collecting your settlement.
- Structured payment: This option is often used for malpractice cases involving young children or birth injuries. The court sets up the funds to ensure the child will have funds for future medical treatment.
- Lump-sum payment: This is the least complicated way of collecting a settlement. Most attorneys and plaintiffs prefer lump sum payment as it allows one to cover expenses and set up funds for future medical expenses.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue a Hospital for Malpractice?
Hiring an experienced malpractice attorney when suing a hospital for negligence can largely influence the outcome of your lawsuit.
Malpractice suits are usually difficult to prosecute due to the strict legal standards of proving hospital negligence.
Besides, state laws require the support of expert witnesses before taking a hospital malpractice lawsuit to court. It would be difficult for you to obtain this support without a good network of medical experts.
But an experienced hospital malpractice attorney has good relations with the best medical experts in the industry to support your case.
Request a Free Medical Malpractice Claim Review Today
No one wishes to worry about the standard of care they will receive when undergoing a medical procedure. You expect your doctor, surgeon, and the hospital to provide professional care.
When the standard of care is not met, or an error occurs, you can experience devastating medical complications. If this happens to you or your loved one, you can rely on the Legal Giant hospital malpractice lawyers to help fight for your fair compensation.
Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation review of your case.