Hospital Liability for Medical Malpractice

Hospital liability for patient injuries stemming from medical malpractice arises when a staff member has acted in a careless or reckless manner. The ability to file a claim is dependent on establishing the existence of a relationship, evidence of medical negligence and showing that the patient suffered damages.

When can a hospital be liable for medical malpractice?

Many malpractice cases stem from the actions of an employee of the hospital, the: 

  • nurses;
  • doctors;
  • surgeons;
  • anesthesiologists;
  • paramedics; and
  • lab technicians.

Generally anyone employed by the hospital is the hospital’s responsibility. Therefore, if an employee of the hospital causes a patient harm, the employer (hospital) would be liable.

But not all physicians are employed by a hospital. Many of them are independent contractors, so if one of them was the cause of a patient’s injuries it may not be possible to sue the hospital. An exception might be if the hospital knowingly allowed an incompetent doctor to practice there.

When can a patient file a medical malpractice claim against the hospital? 

There are three important elements to a malpractice claim, establishing: 

  • a relationship and duty of care;
  • negligence; and
  • that the negligence caused damages.

First, establishing a relationship and duty of care. Patients must establish that there was a relationship between the patient and the hospital staff member. Patients can usually prove this by the fact that he or she received treatment and care from the staff member(s).

Second, establishing negligence. Patients must then prove the hospital staff member was negligent (or the hospital was negligent) and that negligence caused the patient’s injuries or illness. This can be one of the most challenging aspects of pursuing a medical malpractice claim, since the hospital or other parties may blame the condition or injury in question on a previous or existing injury or illness.

For instance, despite receiving proper treatment and attentive care, a cancer patient passes away because of the illness. The patient’s family couldn’t blame the doctor for the death if the doctor did not violate any reasonable standard of care in administering treatment and care.

However, if the family discovers that chemotherapy was administered incorrectly (the drug was diluted or given in high amounts, making it toxic), then it could be considered negligence. Third, establishing that the patient suffered damages. There must be some type of significant loss—which can be financial, physical and/or emotional.

Let’s say a doctor gives a patient the incorrect medicine but it causes no side effects or complications and does not interfere with treatment. This mistake wouldn’t warrant filing a claim. But if it caused damage to internal organs, for example, requiring additional treatment to save the patient’s life, this would likely allow the patient to file a malpractice claim.

Another example is something called anesthesia awareness. If there was a failure to give the correct amount of anesthesia to a patient and he/she was aware of the procedure taking place, this could lead to psychological damage. As a result, compensation may be available.

Which damages may patients recover from a hospital for malpractice?

Generally, damages in a medical malpractice claim include the additional medical costs that arise out of the act of negligence, which could include extended hospitalization, surgery or other forms of treatment. If it results in the patient missing additional time from work, lost wages may be addressed in a claim as well.

Damages available to address physical and emotional losses can vary, they can be anything from the following: 

  • pain and suffering;
  • mental anguish;
  • disability;
  • disfigurement; and
  • reduced quality of life.

Families may pursue wrongful death benefits if a loved one dies as a result of medical or hospital malpractice.

Talk to an Attorney about Filing a Malpractice Claim against a Hospital

If injured while at a hospital, liability for injuries or an illness must be established so the patient and/or the patient’s family can recover compensation for damages. Talk to an attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates for assistance pursuing a malpractice claim against a healthcare professional or a hospital.

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