Can a Hospital Be Blamed for a Wrongful Death?

Wrongful Death Attorney
Wrongful Death Law

In cases where a person perishes due to medical malpractice in a hospital, the estate of the deceased can file what is termed as a wrongful death lawsuit. The estate can rightfully file a lawsuit and claim compensation for losses. It is generally advisable for them to approach a wrongful death attorney after such an incident because the latter would be able to guide them more clearly through the process. Below is a short discussion on wrongful death cases involving hospitals.

When Does A Hospital Become Liable For Wrongful Death?

A hospital is liable in several ways for the death of any patient it treats. There are two common ways, which are as follows:

  • The carelessness of nurses, physicians or other health care providers who are responsible for caring for the patient and appointed by the hospital.
  • The negligence of the hospital in hiring competent employees and supervising them appropriately, disregard in repair and maintenance of its equipment, and so on.

Liability for the Negligence of Independent Contractors

A hospital is not held responsible for any mishap caused by the negligence of physicians who treated patients, or who operated on patients, unless said physicians are direct employees of the hospital.

Nurses and physicians can also be considered to be independent contractors. Therefore, if they are not employed by the hospital, it does not have any responsibility for the wrongful death. Determining the status of an employee as whether or not an independent contractor is a long legal process. It involves reviewing the contract between the hospital and the concerned nurse or the doctor, and also comprises of knowing the amount of control the hospital exercises over the physician’s job and working conditions.

Generally, the more control the employer exerts over the doctor who claims to be an independent contractor, the higher the possibility that the doctor was an employee of the hospital. Due to the complexity of the issue, it is typically recommended to approach a lawyer regarding the case.

Negligence by Physicians Employed At the Hospital

The most common types of physician negligence include the following.

  • Negligence affecting pregnancy and childbirth
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Surgical Errors
  • Mistakes in prescribing or administering medication

If the physician works for the hospital and is still negligent, leading to the death of a patient, the hospital would be responsible for the wrongful death. Overall, confirming the responsibility of the hospital is in itself a complicated legal process. Make sure you consult an experienced lawyer for the legal proceedings therein.

Malpractice by Hospital Nurses

Nurses owe patients an independent professional duty of care and can commit malpractice just like a physician can. They perform many different types of tasks which are related to a patient’s treatment. Serious nursing mistakes have been known to cause the deaths of patients. Some of the most significant types of nursing errors are as follows.

  • Failure to monitor a patient’s vital signs properly
  • Failure to properly enter the patient’s nursing record into the proper chart
  • Administering the wrong type or wrong amount of medication
  • Administering medication at the wrong time
  • Failure to check a patient for bed sores, and
  • Failure to report suspicious symptoms and complaints to the physician in charge.

Should I Sue the Hospital If the Doctor Was Negligent?

A hospital may be legally liable for a doctor’s negligence and patient’s wrongful death, but is it really necessary to sue the hospital and the doctor? The decision whether to sue based on the doctor’s negligence is more of a tactical than a legal decision.

In most cases, your lawyer will make that decision based on the amount of the malpractice insurance coverage he or she carries. If the doctor has enough malpractice coverage, then your lawyer may very well not sue the hospital. The reason for this is that you don’t want to have to face any more defense attorneys than you have to.

If you sue the hospital and the doctor, the insurance company will appoint separate lawyers for each. That means that there will be two, not one, defense attorneys thinking about how to beat you, which you do not want. You only want to deal with one defense attorney, not two, if you can possibly help it.

Some Uncommon Facts about California Wrongful Death Law

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Wrongful Death Lawyers

California wrongful death laws are easily accessible through the internet. You can research and understand the basics by scouring through them. However, there are a few rules that might not be easily understood by an average citizen. These laws become crucial if you are looking to file a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of someone close to you. Below are some of the lesser known facts about the wrongful death laws in California.

You Can Only File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In A Combined Way

One of the different and unexpected features of the wrongful death law of California is that all the claimants involved in a wrongful death case should file a lawsuit together.

This law is to make sure that there is no more than one legal action against the party responsible for the offense. Wrongful death lawyers in California say that this rule enforces California’s “one action rule.” This law also makes sure that the party accused of causing the deaths do not have to worry about facing multiple lawsuits at the same time.

Furthermore, this removes the possibility of incurring inconsistent court decisions and legal outcomes. For instance, different members of the same family might get different outcomes in the same death related incident if there were multiple lawsuits allowed. This would only compound the outcomes of the lawsuit.

According to the “one action rule” of California, the claimant has to include all the heirs within the lawsuit. Bear in mind that this is a difficult task. It is advisable that you consult wrongful death lawyers to seek guidance in such cases.

Death Of Child Yet To Be Born, Or Suicide Does Not Count

Not every case of death allows the family members to register a wrongful death claim. According to the wrongful death laws of California, people are not entitled to file a lawsuit over the death of a fetus or an unborn child. An unborn child is not included in the range of a person when it comes to the wrongful death statute of the state, according to the law.

If there are deaths arising from an enforced homicide, there is no possibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the party that caused it.

Similarly, suicides are not included in the wrongful death laws of California. Note that if the family of the deceased are able to prove the duty of care owed by the responsible party to the deceased, there is a possibility of claiming compensation for the death.

The Rate of Recurrence of a Medical Error Due To Measurement Systems

Wrongful Death
Wrongful Death Cases

When receiving the medication in a medical facility in the United States of America, the last thing in a patient’s mind will be a dosage calculation mistake. To make things worse, there are instances where this happens because of something more than a miscalculation. This is often considered to be because of hesitance on the nation’s part to fully adopt the metric system. Several people make a case for the change to the system owing to the data suggesting the number of mistakes happening because of this.

Usually, drug dosage depends on the weight of a patient. In addition, if there is a mistake in pounds to kilograms conversation, then it could lead to drug overdose in them. While the increase in health records being stored electronically has considerably reduced the paper clutter, this has resulted in mathematical errors too because of a failure in changing the default values. A patient safety nonprofit has listed errors in the pounds to kilograms conversion as one safety concern patients should have. These errors occur because of many reasons. Some are human errors, such as the incorrect conversion of numbers and mistaken settings.

Several medical entities comprising the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Institute for Safe Medication Practices have advocated for the switch to the above-mentioned system. This can especially be important to infants. While the switch has been made in some medical facilities, others are reluctant to do it in large part due to the new equipment purchase cost. A study of over 63,000 medication mistakes in very young kids between 2002 and 2012 has shown that about 20% were dosage related ones. There has been a rise in occurrences of these errors by 67% since the year 2002. A bit more than 8% was because of confusion about how the values were measured. That is a rise of 84%.

Although the studies have focused on kids, these calculation mishaps can occur to adults too. Considering the possibility for the loss of life by a mistake such as a wrongly measured switch from one measurement system to the other, it is important for everyone to be wary of the potential thereof. If there has been any case of fatality or worsened medical condition due to this kind of mistake, then speaking to one who is experienced and skilled in wrongful death litigation is advisable.

5 Things to Understand When Hiring Wrongful Death Attorneys

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Wrongful Death Lawyers

An adept attorney combines his or her knowledge, experience, as well as compassion to assert the rights of their client and get the compensation they deserve. A good lawyer is not just organized, experienced, and knowledgeable but also has the fire to advocate for just compensation for clients. Having a lawyer who is capable of handling wrongful death cases is important, though it is equally important to choose one with whom clients can have or build a rapport. When one consults with an attorney or wrongful death law firm, there are some essential matters that should they should get to know. These matters are as follows.

Track Record

Ask how many legal matters the wrongful death law firm has handled and how they have panned out. Find out the number of cases they took to trial as opposed to the number of disputes they managed to settle out of court. Whether trial or settlement, an attorney should see it through with the backing of his or her experience.


One has to be certain that a lawyer will also be able to devote sufficient time as well as attention to their case for it to be successful. In addition, it is essential to ensure there is qualified staff to assist him or her. Make it a point to know there is a competent attorney or team of lawyers having the time to work upon a wrongful death case, even when it goes to trial.

Client Communication

For a layman, legal claims can be quite complicated. Therefore, a client will have many questions on their mind. One needs a lawyer who is going to answer as well as explain everything to them clearly.

Fee Policy

Most wrongful death or personal injury lawyer do not necessarily ask for payments until the case’s completion. They will be compensated for their services through one portion of its settlement amount or judgment amount.

Client Testimonials

Reputation is as important as any quality in the legal profession. Some lawyers get clients thanks to their outstanding work in a sensational case or two, and that has become news. Reading client testimonials can also be an assurance a law firm or lawyer has what it takes to handle a case.