Is the Hospital Liable for a Patient’s Wrongful Death?
When a patient dies at a hospital and the death was the result of medical negligence (also known as malpractice), one may wonder if the hospital could be considered at-fault. Typically, loved ones or a member of the estate can file a lawsuit that includes the health care professional as well as the hospital, but only when specific circumstances apply.
If you have lost a loved one and it was the result of medical negligence, you may qualify for compensation. To explore your options, you will want to talk with a trusted attorney that also has experience handling wrongful death claims.
When a Hospital Can Be Liable for a Wrongful Death in Their Facility
Hospitals can be held liable for a death that occurs due to medical negligence, even if they were not directly at-fault themselves (e.g., the death occurred due to physician error). The two most common ways a hospital is found liable for wrongful death include:
Negligence of Employees: When employees of the hospital are the cause of a person’s death, such as a nurse, physician, surgeon, or other health care professional, then the hospital is automatically liable as they are the employer of that at-fault party.
Hospital’s Negligent Supervision or Hiring: When a hospital hires a physician knowing they have a history of negligent practices, or they refuse to screen employees for training and proper background checks, then any death caused because of that negligence can result in a lawsuit against the hospital.
Hospital Facilities or Equipment were to Blame: If the hospital’s equipment or facility caused the death, such as un-sanitized equipment, then they could be named in the lawsuit for wrongful death.
Common Instances where Hospitals Are Named in a Wrongful Death Suit
Typically, the negligence of a healthcare provider working in the facility will lead to a lawsuit against the healthcare provider and the hospital. Some examples of times where the hospital might be named in a lawsuit along with the at-fault healthcare provider include:
- Medical misdiagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Prescription or drug administration errors
- Negligence with childbirth or pregnancy
- Not monitoring a patient
- Not staffing enough medical personnel in each department to monitor patients effectively
When a Hospital Cannot Be Held Liable for a Wrongful Death in Their Facility
In other cases, a hospital cannot be held liable, even if the death occurs inside their facility. One of the biggest reasons hospitals escape liability in wrongful death cases is due to claims of independent contractors. Hospitals will purposely employ their physicians and healthcare professionals as contractors; not employees. Therefore, they cannot be held liable, as the party at fault was not an employee.
Physicians and nurses are typically hired in contract positions, which means medical negligence by them is not on the hospital.
While some hospitals will use this as a defense, it does not always work. They must follow strict rules to escape liability for the actions of “employees,” and the more control they have over that employee and their performance, the easier it is to say that the party was, in fact, an employee and not a contractor at the time. This is a very complex issue and proving that a healthcare provider was an employee and not a contractor is not always easy. Therefore, you want to hire an attorney who has experience with these types of cases to help find evidence proving that the hospital had direct control over that contractor, and that they do not meet the federal definition of a contractor.
Do You Have a Case against a Hospital?
Did you recently lose a loved one due to medical negligence, and now you are wondering if you have a case against the hospital for your loss?
A hospital can be liable when healthcare professionals under their watch cause death, but you may ask yourself whether you should sue the hospital or the physician or both. It is best that you consult with an attorney for the answer. An attorney will review the facts of the case, including what led to your loved one’s death, and see which party is more likely to be able to pay the compensation you deserve and who you can hold liable in court.
Your attorney will also make their decision based on medical malpractice insurance coverage of the physician. When a physician’s policy is too small to pay the compensation warranted, then they may seek additional damages from the hospital. When the physician has enough coverage and they were fully at-fault for the death, your attorney may find it best to only sue the physician.
What Compensation Can You Receive?
A wrongful death stemming from medical negligence can result in compensation for multiple areas – similar to an injury lawsuit. In this case, the damages would be similar to a malpractice lawsuit if the victim survived and include costs associated with the loss as well.
Some compensation family members may receive include:
Medical Costs – Any medical expenses paid as part of the negligence can be reimbursed even if they were paid by health insurance companies.
Lost Wages and Loss of Earnings – When a loved one passes away, it may mean that your household no longer has the same steady income that it once did. You can file for compensation to cover the loss of those future earnings and compensation to the household along with lost wages while you cared for your loved one or dealt with their unexpected death.
Pain and Suffering – Any physical pain and suffering the victim experienced before their death, along with emotional suffrage loved ones endure after, are included in the compensation.
If you recently lost a loved one due to medical malpractice and you would like to explore your options for compensation, speak with an attorney from the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld, P.A. today. Our team can discuss your case during a free case evaluation. Schedule your appointment now at 954-677-0155 or request more information online.