When you’re severely injured, ill, or in need of surgery, the hospital is typically the place you go. You trust that the doctors, nurses, and medical staff at the hospital will treat you appropriately and with care.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. According to a report in the Journal of Patient Safety, between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm at the hands of the medical staff—harm that contributes to their deaths. Medical malpractice is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.
Who Is Responsible for Wrongful Death in a Hospital?
If your loved one died while in a hospital, you may think that you can file a claim against the hospital itself…and in some cases, you are correct. However, not every situation allows for this to happen.
A hospital is not usually legally liable for a wrongful death when a doctor or nurse responsible for a patient’s death is an independent contractor and not an employee of the hospital. For instance, an OB-GYN who has an independent practice may deliver babies and perform surgeries at certain hospitals, but he isn’t actually an employee of those hospitals; he simply uses the facilities to help him provide services to his patients.
If a doctor with an independent practice made a mistake resulting in a patient’s death, the hospital would likely not be responsible for a wrongful death, since the doctor is a contractor and not a hospital employee. In this situation, the loved one of the wrongful death victim needs to make a claim against the doctor, not the hospital.
Determining who is a contractor and who is a hospital employee is often a complicated process, as contracts and other documentation can come into play. However, an experienced attorney can help determine the difference in order to file the proper claim.
Types of Hospital Negligence
In some situations, the hospital is responsible for the negligence of its employees. So if the medical professional is an actual employee of the hospital and not a contractor, a claim can be made against the hospital. You may be able to file a complaint against the hospital if:
- Your loved one died as a result of the hospital’s negligence in maintaining and repairing its equipment, managing and overseeing the medical care given at the hospital, and in hiring and supervising its employees.
- Your loved died as the direct result of negligence from nurses, physicians, or healthcare providers who are employed by the hospital.
You may also be able to sue a hospital for wrongful death if you believe your loved one died because the facility…
- Was understaffed and not able to provide proper care.
- Failed to fire unlicensed, incompetent, or unsafe employees.
- Didn't verify that its health care providers are safe, competent, and properly licensed.
- Was negligent in patient safety.
- Failed to provide proper safety protocols for issues such as hand washing, the labeling and administration of patient medication, sanitation, and preventing patient falls.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death by Doctors and Nurses
Physicians are often found negligent for wrongful death because of…
- Surgical errors
- Mistakes in prescribing or administering medication
- Negligence affecting childbirth and pregnancy
Nurses often administer more care to patients than doctors, and can be found responsible for a death because of errors such as…
- Errors in administering medication
- Not checking a patient for bed sores
- Failing to properly monitor a patient’s vital signs
- Not reporting suspicious symptoms or complaints to the physician in charge
- Failing to enter the nurse’s patient record into a patient’s chart
When Your Loved One Dies Because of Hospital Negligence
It's understandable that relatives of loved ones who died because of medical errors want to seek resolution. With the help of the attorneys of Wayne Wright, survivors may be able to hold the medical personnel or hospital accountable for just compensation. Schedule your consultation by calling 800-237-3334 and find out what we may be able to do for you and your family.