When Can Patients Sue a Hospital for Negligence?

When can you sue the hospital or its employees for negligence?

A hospital can be sued for negligence for mistakes that harm or kill a patient. When an employee of the hospital is guilty of negligence, you can sue the hospital. When a doctor working for a hospital makes a mistake, both the doctor personally and the hospital as a whole can be sued. However, doctors can only be sued if they were present and could have prevented the negligence. You cannot sue every doctor in the Emergency Room or surgical floor, only the one who administered or oversaw your treatment. Hospitals can also be sued when a doctor with a history of negligence and medical mistakes was kept on the payroll, thus enabling them to continue harming patients.

What constitutes neglect?

Neglect occurs when someone does not do their job as a normal and competent professional would. Negligence includes not verifying instructions, not following checklists, failing to assist patients in need and not take immediate action in an emergency. There are greater tolerances for mistakes made in life threatening emergencies than general care situations. Malpractice and negligence can arise from a failure to properly diagnose a condition or injury. Negligence can occur when someone is given the improper treatment or the correct treatment is administered incorrectly. Nurses administering the wrong medication and therapists following the wrong protocols are examples of this.

Failing to risk patients of negative outcomes from a medical treatment or side effects of the treatment is also negligence. Recommending a surgery to cure cataracts that can also leave a patient blind is an example of this concept. To sue for negligence, the risk must be significant enough that the patient might have chosen not to have the procedure or treatment if they had known and must have suffered that negative outcome.

Can you sue medical professionals other than doctors at the hospital?

Yes. Any medical professional affiliated with a hospital can be sued for negligence. This includes nurses, physical therapists, medical technicians and pharmacists. First responders such as paramedics and firefighters have broad protection from medical negligence claims, due to the difficulty of acting during emergencies, unless they are employees of the hospital and provide care at the facility. Good Samaritans are rarely sued for negligence unless their actions are reckless.

What types of damages are available when someone sues a hospital for negligence?

There must be a specific injury as well as actual damage to sue for negligence. You cannot sue a hospital because you were unhappy with the level of service.

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Medical bills with other medical facilities or practitioners to treat the condition caused by the hospital's neglect, injuries caused by the hospital or diagnose what the hospital failed to find.
  • Lost income due to the inability to work or lost income of the individual who died
  • Medical bills resulting from additional treatment at the hospital if the patient had received the proper course of treatment.
  • Costs of physical therapy or assisted care while recovering
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