Clients often ask if their family can sue a hospital for wrongful death. The answer to this question is yes, under certain circumstances. There is a difference between suing the doctor who administered care to your family member and the hospital. Sometimes, both parties are liable, but not always.
David Azizi has been there for numerous families who have lost a loved one due to negligent hospital care. David’s compassion helps families deal with this challenging situation. Medical lawsuits are often complicated affairs that require diligence and expertise. David’s experience with wrongful death lawsuits is a substantial factor in his 98 percent success rate. Turn to David to schedule a free consultation today.
When the Hospital Can Be Held Liable for Wrongful Death
There are two instances when a hospital can be held liable:
- If the negligence of a hospital-employed doctor, staff member or nurse caused your family member’s death, you can sue the hospital. Many doctors and nurses are considered contract workers, and the hospital is not liable for their wrongdoing.
- On occasion, the hospital will cause a wrongful death due to inadequate and negligent services other than direct patient contact. All hospital employees must be adequately trained and vetted. The responsibility for this lies with the hospital.
How a Hospital Causes a Wrongful Death
Hospitals are required to care for their patients with their well-being in mind. Some of the ways a hospital is expected to do this are:
- Maintaining a sanitary environment: An ill person should never expect their health to decline because of low hygienic standards in a hospital. Maintaining a clean environment is necessary to prevent infections such as staph or other dangerous pathogens. Prevention involves cleaning surfaces and floors with a disinfectant regularly.
- Preventing patients from falling: Some patients cannot stand or walk without falling due to their illness or advanced age. There are a variety of ways a hospital can prevent them from falling. These include the proper use of rails and instructing the patient to call a nurse when they need to use the facilities. Falls often cause a wrongful death when the patient suffers a traumatic brain injury. Falls can also cause a hip fracture and other severe injuries.
- Preventing bedsores: Patients, due to their illness, may be forced to lie in bed for an extended time. Some patients may be unable to turn on their own and should be turned regularly to prevent this problem. Infected bedsores can lead to a patient’s death, so they must be prevented and treated if found.
- Hospital employment: The hospital is required to hire competent personnel in all areas. This includes doctors, nurses and pharmacists employed by the hospital and members of the maintenance staff, dieticians and others. Also, background checks need to be performed to ensure the safety of the patients.
- Eliminating incompetent personnel: Sometimes, hospitals fail to eliminate unqualified personnel for a variety of reasons. For instance, they may not be aware of the incompetence, may be short-staffed or the incompetence is hidden from them by the employee’s superior. When incompetent personnel are not eliminated, it can lead to a patient’s wrongful death.
Hospital Nurses and Malpractice
Nurses in hospitals can commit malpractice since they care directly for the patient. In some cases, a nursing mistake leads to a wrongful death. Some critical nursing errors are:
- Dispensing medication: Nurses are usually involved in dispensing medications. In many medical facilities, nurses are forced to handle more patients than they should. This overload can lead to mix-ups when medication is dispensed. If the pharmacist supplies the wrong medication or the wrong dose, the nurse is the last barrier preventing the patient from receiving it. If the nurse does not notice a medication error, he/she, as well as the pharmacist and hospital, may be held liable.
- Some medications must be given on a strict schedule, and breaking with this could cause the patient’s demise.
- Monitoring the patients correctly: Nurses are required to monitor a patient’s vital signs. A mistake when monitoring the patient can lead to issues concerning the patient’s cardiac status, lung capacity and temperature. Failure to do this can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Failing to report problems to the doctor in charge: Since the nurse is in constant touch with the patient and sees them throughout the day, she/he may notice abnormal symptoms that could signal a health condition. The nurse is required to report this to the doctor. If they fail to do that, the patient’s health may suffer and wrongful death may occur.
- Chart abnormalities: Nurses are required to update a patient’s chart regularly. If this is not done, it would be impossible for other medical personnel to know what is going on. Mistakes in the nursing notes can lead to a wrongful death.
- Not checking the patient for bedsores: Nurses are required to do this, and when they don’t, the bedsore may become infected, leading to serious illness or death. Bedsore checks must be done regularly.
Suing Doctors: When a Negligent Physician Employed by a Hospital May Be Sued
Generally, if the physician’s standard of care is negligent and the hospital employs the physician, the hospital would be liable for a wrongful death along with the physician. Some areas a physician can be held responsible are:
- Surgical errors: This is one of the main areas where physician negligence occurs. It can range from operating on the wrong body part or leaving extraneous items in the body cavity such as sponges or clamps to not monitoring the patient correctly during surgery. It is also crucial that the surgeon maintain proper aftercare of the patient so that infection or other problems don’t arise. If problems occur, the surgeon is required to treat them. Surgeons can also be sued for unnecessary surgery or damage to a person’s organs or nerves during an operation.
- Prescribing the wrong medication: A doctor who prescribes the wrong medication or dosage or fails to check for known allergies before prescribing it can cause a wrongful death. A physician must also be aware of a woman’s status in terms of pregnancy since it can be affected by the physician’s care.
- Mistakes during childbirth: Although California does not allow a wrongful death to be filed in the case of the loss of a fetus, the mother’s health is still an issue.
- Misdiagnosis: Misdiagnosis of a patient is a severe offense that can lead to the patient’s death. This includes making the wrong diagnosis or not diagnosing a serious problem. An improper diagnosis can keep the patient from receiving the correct treatment or being given inappropriate treatment, leading to wrongful death.
Free Case Review with a Los Angeles Attorney for Wrongful Death
Due to the complexity of wrongful death lawsuits, the family needs an experienced attorney’s advice and assistance. Not only should the lawyer be well-versed in handling wrongful death claims, but he or she must also know medical issues involved in the patient’s care. It is necessary to review medical records with an eye towards signs of negligence. It is also essential for the law firm to have the resources to engage experts in the field.
David has helped numerous families after the death of a loved one due to hospital negligence. He works hard to help the family avoid monetary problems due to the decedent’s demise. He does this, in part, by carefully reviewing the case and consulting with medical experts. Call (800) 991-5292 to schedule a free consultation, which can be done in person, on the phone or virtually. You’ll understand why Super Lawyers calls David one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles.