Can a Hospital Be Held Liable for a Patient’s Wrongful Death?
When a hospital patient dies due to a medical error, the hospital may be held liable, either for its own negligence or for the negligence of its employees. Attorneys representing next of kin in a wrongful death lawsuit usually join the hospital as a defendant even when the hospital’s liability is not immediately clear. In certain cases where a doctor has privileges at a hospital but does not have an employer-employee relationship with the institution, the hospital may not have a duty toward that doctor’s patients and cannot be held accountable for that doctor’s mistakes.
A hospital can be negligent if it fails in the following areas:
- Failing to screen the professionals it hires — Hospital administrators must verify that the providers they hire are licensed and competent.
- Failing to supervise workers — Hospitals must provide sufficient oversight to discover and correct deficiencies in patient care.
- Failing to establish proper protocols for healthcare services — Hospitals must adopt and enforce industry best practices to prevent medical and surgical errors.
- Mismanagement of staff — A hospital that understaffs its wards or allows staff to work too much overtime creates an atmosphere where mistakes are more likely to occur.
A hospital can also be liable under respondeat superior, the legal theory that makes an employer responsible for its employees’ negligence in the performance of their duties. When doctors and nurses are employees or partners in the hospital, the hospital must answer for their negligence, including:
- Surgical errors
- Medication errors
- Failure to monitor patients
- Failure to keep proper records of care
If a doctor or a nurse is an independent contractor, the hospital is usually not liable for their mistakes. However, merely labeling a professional a contractor is not enough; if the hospital exercises sufficient control over a professional’s working conditions and job performance, a court may find an employer-employee relationship exists.
Medical malpractice lawsuits have many levels of complexity, so the attorney you choose to pursue your wrongful death claim must have sufficient knowledge and experience to manage the litigation.
If your loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, trust Largey Law to fight aggressively for justice. To schedule an appointment with an experienced wrongful death lawyer at our firm, call 352.508.1485 or contact our office online.