Each year, millions of people suffer serious bodily injuries, or lose their life, due to negligent treatment at a hospital. When medical providers fail to meet the established standard of care for their area of specialization (whether it be a nurse, an internist, or a surgeon) and someone is seriously injured as a result, this means the injured patient could conceivably sue a hospital for medical malpractice.
Can You Sue a Hospital?
When a patient is seriously harmed due to medical negligence, a common question that arises is whether to file a medical malpractice claim against the treating doctor exclusively or whether the hospital can be held legally liable. In effect, people wonder, “can you sue a hospital?” The answer is, generally yes, an injured patient can sue a hospital for negligence. However, the viability of a negligence claim will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your potential claim.
To have a viable medical malpractice claim, four legal elements need to be met:
- The medical provider owed a duty of care to you (the patient);
- The medical provider breached this duty of care;
- You suffered harm as a proximate result of the medical provider’s negligent action or inaction; and
- The harms and losses suffered were significant enough to warrant pursuing financial restitution through a hospital malpractice claim.
Please note that, even though you can sue a hospital for negligence, the ability to file a hospital malpractice lawsuit is only available for a finite period of time. This is due to the statute of limitations applicable to hospital negligence claims. Generally, an injured patient has between two to six years to file a lawsuit to seek financial restitution for their harms and losses.
Examples of When a Hospital Could be Considered Liable for Medical Malpractice
The following list highlights situations and incidents that could potentially provide grounds for a hospital negligence lawsuit. Nevertheless, to get a proper assessment of your legal options, contact an experienced hospital negligence lawyer. They can review the specific facts and advise whether it makes sense to proceed with a hospital negligence claim.
Below is a list of examples when a hospital could potentially be held liable for medical malpractice:
- Wrong diagnosis or medical treatment from medical professionals
- Administering incorrect medication to a patient
- Failure to sanitize equipment
- Leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient after completing a procedure
- Negligent actions by a healthcare professional
- Hospital staff inappropriately reusing equipment or needles
Examples of When a Hospital Generally Would Not Be Considered Liable for Medical Malpractice
Suffering a serious injury while being treated at a hospital does not, in and of itself, mean the hospital is liable for your harms and losses. Generally, a hospital is considered to be liable for the actions of its employees through a legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior.” However, this legal doctrine does not necessarily extend to independent contractors working at a hospital.
For example, there are instances where a doctor treats patients or conducts a procedure at a particular hospital, but that doctor is an independent contractor and not an actual employee of that facility. In these instances, a hospital malpractice lawsuit may not be a viable option. The best way to figure out whether a doctor, a nurse, a hospital, or multiple individuals and entities could be held liable for your injuries is to schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
How a Lawsuit Against a Hospital is Different from Other Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
A hospital malpractice lawsuit has notable distinctions from other types of medical malpractice lawsuits. Typically, a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed against a doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other individual medical provider whose negligent action, or inaction, caused harm to a patient. In contrast, a hospital malpractice lawsuit is filed against a business entity, which may not even be the specific hospital where you were treated. Instead, you may need to file a hospital malpractice lawsuit against the parent organization and the subsidiary hospital.
Hospital malpractice lawsuits are also notably different due to the aforementioned issue involving hospital employees and independent contractors. This issue typically does not arise when a lawsuit is filed against a specific doctor or surgeon.
Another notable distinction is the importance of the type of hospital where the injury occurred. For example, if you were injured while being treated at a hospital operated by the federal government (e.g., U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital), then you would need to navigate both state medical malpractice laws and the Federal Torts Claim Act (FTCA). The FTCA is a federal law requiring a claimant to provide timely notice and a description of the claim to the federal agency responsible for managing the hospital where you were harmed. The federal agency then is afforded six months to issue a response to your claim notice.
Special Requirements for a Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit
Medical malpractice lawsuits are generally considered to be some of the most challenging and complex forms of civil claims. This is largely due to the various special requirements that must be met to even file a hospital malpractice lawsuit. Additionally, there is the inherent difficulty of translating complex medical jargon into understandable language describing what happened, what went wrong, and how the patient was harmed.
Simply filing a hospital negligence lawsuit presents an array of special requirements. For example, multiple states require patients to retain the services of a medical expert to conduct a preliminary review of your medical records and to draft an “affidavit of merit” stating that you have a viable medical malpractice lawsuit. The process of locating and hiring such an expert presents its own set of challenges.
Furthermore, some states go further by requiring patients to submit a claim to a medical review board before the patient can even file a medical malpractice lawsuit in a court of law. In addition, other states require patients to engage in some form of pre-lawsuit alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before moving forward with filing a hospital negligence lawsuit.
If you are able to move forward and file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you then need to compile relevant medical records and reports to help build your case. This is because the injured party bears the legal burden of presenting sufficient evidence to indicate the hospital, doctor, or other who was responsible for causing your injury, or injuries.
Satisfying the requirements described above is much less intimidating and challenging when you have an experienced medical malpractice lawyer on your side. An experienced attorney understands the legal process and what is necessary to build a compelling medical malpractice lawsuit.
Types of Recoverable Damages in a Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit
The types of recoverable damages that may be pursued through a hospital malpractice lawsuit include the following:
- Cost of your medical treatment;
- Lost income and diminished earning capacity; and
- Pain, suffering, inconvenience, and trauma stemming from the harm
It is important to note that, when it comes to obtaining financial restitution through a hospital malpractice lawsuit, many state legislatures have placed limits or “caps” on the amount of damages that may be awarded to an injured patient.
For example, in the State of Texas, an injured patient is able to recover any amount of economic damages, including the cost of medical care and lost income. However, there is a statutory cap on non-economic damages (i.e., pain and suffering damages). Under Texas law, the cap on non-economic damages is $250,000 for each defendant with an overall limit of $750,000, regardless of the total number of defendants.
Why It Makes Sense to Hire a Hospital Malpractice Lawyer
Given the complexity and unique requirements associated with a hospital malpractice lawsuit, it is not the type of legal action someone should attempt to file without experienced legal counsel. Medical malpractice lawsuits can be extremely challenging and require an in-depth understanding of the legal and medical issues applicable to your case. They also necessitate the capacity to adhere to court rules and procedures, and the ability to find and retain the right expert medical witnesses to help substantiate your medical malpractice claim.
Have Questions About Your Potential Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit? Contact Slack Davis Sanger
If you or a loved one was seriously harmed while being treated at a hospital, now is the time to take action and get a proper assessment of your legal options. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger are here to help. We provide honest and knowledgeable representation to patients who were badly injured while being treated in a medical facility.
With a reputation for excellence, our team of seasoned trial lawyers understand how to navigate the complexities of medical malpractice cases. Our own legal nurse consultant provides experienced medical expertise to our malpractice cases, adding a unique layer of knowledge. To schedule a free, confidential consultation at one of our offices in Austin, Dallas, or Fort Worth, please call 800-455-8686 or fill out our quick contact form.
The firm handles cases involving catastrophic personal injuries and deaths. Our work spans three decades of handling airplane and helicopter crashes, truck and car accidents, oilfield and construction accidents, and other devastating accidents. We try lawsuits throughout the country in both federal and state courts and have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. To date, we have handled or tried cases in 47 states, read more about our attorneys and firm.