Hospital Liability for Wrongful Death

Updated on August 26, 2021

The estate of a deceased patient can sue hospitals in the case of negligence or medical malpractice. A wrongful death suit can be brought against a hospital to seek  damages for the patients’ beneficiaries. There are several reasons a patient’s estate could find the hospital liable for damages. 

How Hospitals Can Be Liable

An estate might seek damages due to direct negligence at the hands of hospital-employed personnel and health care providers. If nurses, physicians, or other health care providers do not adhere to proper procedural regulations, they could be at fault for the patient’s death. 

Another reason for filing a wrongful death suit would be the hospital’s failure to enforce, supervise, or execute proper patient care and procedures. These failures include the facilities and equipment, as well as their maintenance. If hospitals are unsanitary, do not follow safety protocols, or have incompetent or unlicensed staff members, the fault could be placed on the hospital. 

Physician Negligence and Malpractice

Healthcare workers are trusted with the health and safety of a patient, which can cause severe issues if ignored. If a hospital employs a negligent physician, the hospital may be liable for wrongful death. 

Hospital employed physicians can be sued for negligence related to:

• Surgical errors

• Pregnancy and childbirth-related negligence 

• Misdiagnosis

• Prescription or medication-related mistakes 

Nurse Negligence and Malpractice

Nurses are just as responsible for negligence and malpractice as physicians are. The many duties of a nurse require attention to detail and procedural requirements. When done improperly, these tasks may be cause for a wrongful death suit: 

• Reporting suspicious symptoms and complaints

• Administering medication at the proper time

• Administering the proper amount and type of medication 

• Checking patient for bed sores 

• Updating patient charts and records

• Monitoring vital signs 

When Hospitals are not Liable 

When those performing patient care are independent contractors as opposed to direct employees, the hospital is not held liable for negligence and wrongful death. If a doctor that is not directly employed by the hospital sees a patient inside the hospital or uses the facility to perform a procedure, the hospital is not legally liable for medical malpractice or negligence. 

This liability sounds straightforward, but several different factors determine employment within a hospital. In many cases, nurses and physicians are independent contractors and are not directly employed by the hospital. For this reason, contracts can complicate wrongful death suits against hospitals. 

Whether or not a hospital had control or oversight over the employee or independent contractor helps determine blame under these circumstances. Regardless of the contract, the court can identify the hospital’s influence and prove liability. 

Who Should Be Sued? 

As a result of wrongful death, the focus for the beneficiaries’ lawyer is to seek damages for their client’s loss because of the incident. While it is possible to sue both the nurse or doctor responsible and the hospital, it may make the process longer and more complex. Adding additional parties creates another defense to be faced and can be avoided if the doctor has enough coverage under their malpractice insurance. 

“Deciding which parties to sue in a wrongful death case is important to make sure the family is properly compensated.” said Attorney Gary Christmas of Christmas Injury Lawyers. “Attempting to sue multiple parties can lead to an overly complicated case that can make it harder to receive the appropriate compensation.”

If possible, it is best to limit the amount of opposition when pursuing wrongful death damages. However, lawyers may decide to pursue one or both parties depending on the situation.

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