Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim Against a Hospital or ER?

Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim Against a Hospital or ER?

At some point in our lives, we will rely on a medical professional to provide care for either ourselves or a loved one. Medical professionals have a duty to provide a professional standard of care to their patients. What happens though, when this standard of care is not met? Misconduct and mistakes made by healthcare professionals can result in the premature death of a patient. When this occurs, the law provides a legal remedy for the surviving members of the family through wrongful death lawsuits.

Wrongful death lawsuits are complicated and regulated strictly by state laws. It is important to consult an attorney who has experience in wrongful death lawsuits to help navigate this process. Hospitals and individual physicians and nurses can all be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. An attorney will be able to make the best decision on how to proceed.  

Generally, a hospital can be liable in two different ways. The first is when a hospital employee is negligent. The second is when the hospital itself is negligent either in hiring and firing policies, maintaining equipment or management.

When a physician or nurse is negligent, it can be difficult to hold the hospital liable because it must be proven that the medical professional is an actual hospital employee. Many doctors or nurses work as independent contractors and may be just using the hospital for a specific procedure. The general rule is that the more influence and control the hospital has over a medical professional, the easier it is to prove that the medical professional is employed by the hospital.

If the hospital itself is negligent and the negligence results in the premature death of a patient, a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital is an option. Failure to fire an employee who deviated from professional standard of care or hiring an employee who did not have legitimate licenses and credentials are two ways a hospital can be found negligent. It is the hospital’s responsibility to hire competent staff and fire unsafe employees. Examples of negligence of a physician include misdiagnosis, prescribing the wrong medication, and surgical errors. Nurses, who are responsible for a wider variety of tasks relating to patient care, can be found negligent for far more reasons. Failure to monitor a patient and record events on the patient’s chart, administering the wrong medication, failure to check the patient for bedsores or failure to report new or suspicious symptoms can all be considered negligent actions by a nurse. If it is proven that the negligent physician or nurse is in fact a hospital employee, the hospital in addition to the negligent individual can be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.

In addition to hiring and firing policies, hospitals are also responsible for medical equipment maintenance, safety protocols and general management and overseeing of daily operations. Can a wrongful death lawsuit be filed against a hospital or emergency room? The short answer is yes. There are many ways to legally hold a hospital liable in a wrongful death action. It can be a confusing and emotionally taxing process however, so it is important to find an experienced attorney, like a personal injury lawyer Delray Beach, FL trusts, to aid in the legal process.



Thanks to our friends and contributors from Eric H. Luckman, P.A. for their insight into wrongful death cases.