Suing a Hospital for Malpractice

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Medical workers like doctors, nurses and medical technicians frequently make decisions that significantly affect a patient's care, and, when wrong, those decisions can cause additional harm to a patient. If a medical provider has harmed you, you can try to sue the provider and the hospital for malpractice. However, not every mistake made in a hospital makes the hospital liable for malpractice.

Malpractice

  • Generally, malpractice happens when a professional, such as a doctor or medical professional, performs his duties negligently. You must be able to prove four elements to prove malpractice in a typical case: duty, breach of duty, causation and damage. Thus, you must show first that the hospital had a duty to do or not do something. Then, you must prove it breached, or broke, that duty. Typically, this means the hospital failed to exercise the degree of care or skill that another hospital would have exercised in a similar situation. If you can show a breach of duty, you then must show that the hospital's action caused you damages. For example, if a hospital failed to provide a reasonably clean facility and that failure caused you to become seriously ill with a bacterial infection, you might have a strong malpractice case.

Employees

  • If the hospital or its employees directly caused your injury, you could sue them for direct negligence. For example, if a hospital fails to properly keep medical records or check the training of its employees, it could be directly liable for malpractice because of its own actions. Hospitals can also be vicariously liable, meaning they can be sued if their employees do something wrong. For example, if a lab technician employed by the hospital fails to follow hospital policies, causing him to mix up blood samples, you could sue the hospital for his actions if they caused you harm.

Contractors

  • Hospitals may not be responsible for everyone who appears to work in their facilities, however, so you may not be able to sue a hospital for malpractice just because the incident happened in the hospital building. For example, hospitals frequently contract with doctors for their services instead of hiring them. If an independent contractor caused your injury, the hospital might not be liable for the malpractice, though the contractor might be liable. Some exceptions to this exist, however, including cases in which a hospital gives staff privileges to a doctor who has a history of incompetence or dangerous actions.

Proof

  • Since your case can only be successful if you prove all four elements of malpractice, you must provide evidence supporting each element. Because medicine is such a specialized skill, you probably will have to provide expert witnesses to testify in your case. For example, an expert could explain to the court how much money your injury is likely to cost you over your lifetime, thus helping you prove damages. Depending on your injury, you may need to provide photographs, medical records or other documents to support your case.

References

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