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
- 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.