How to Sue a Hospital? The Ultimate Guide

Thursday, December 14, 2023

How to Sue a Hospital? The Ultimate Guide

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

When you go to the hospital, you are in dire need of medical attention. The hospital should provide adequate attention to your ailments so you can leave in better shape than you entered. However, sometimes negligence occurs, and you or a loved one are in a worse position than before. There are three primary reasons you can sue a hospital: medical malpractice, medical negligence, and wrongful death. Each circumstance has individual factors that dictate the recovery process.

Reasons to Sue a Hospital

Hospital negligence is sadly commonplace. Patients can suffer injuries or complications for various reasons. You should get justice when hospital staff do not do their job. You could be suffering long-term consequences because of their actions. Hospitals are responsible for their employees’ actions. This includes nurses, EMTs, physicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, and other staff. An error can occur in many ways with many people handling your case. Many claims arise from the following situations:

  • Surgical errors: you could be in the hospital for a scheduled or emergency surgery. In either case, everyone in the operating room should ensure you are safe. Some surgical errors could arise from operating on the wrong body part or leaving items inside the patient. There are processes to circumvent these errors, and it is negligent if they are not followed.
  • Diagnostic errors may include a delayed diagnosis, failure to diagnose, or misdiagnosis. These are considered medical malpractice. A doctor failing to provide a timely and accurate diagnosis can worsen your condition or result in unnecessary medical treatment.
  • Medication errors: hospitals, nurses, doctors, and other staff can administer medication to help manage pain or your condition. These medications can be part of your treatment plan. If there is an error, it can result in tragedy. Staff may administer the wrong medication, underdose, or overdose, resulting in a medication error. Sometimes, they will fail to consider the interactions medications have with each other and other medications the person could be taking. Patients can lose their lives from these errors.
  • Triage errors: the emergency room can become chaotic, and errors can happen. Staff must ensure they prioritize patients who need immediate care. Another standard triage error is refusing to treat patients because of their current or perceived financial abilities.
  • Medical treatment errors: a treatment plan will be constructed for patients. Medical staff making errors can lead to long-term or permanent consequences. Common treatment errors are failing to properly monitor patients or improperly setting a bone. Some errors could have remedies, while others may not. There could be fatal consequences for these errors.
  • Record-keeping errors: hospital staff must document everything they do to you. They should also get an accurate medical history. If they make a record-keeping error, they may fail to identify an allergy or administer incorrect treatment. They could even treat the wrong patient. Records are essential to a hospital stay. They are also crucial for any legal claims you are making.

The hospital and its staff are responsible for numerous tasks when a patient is under their care. Other reasons you may sue a hospital include:

  • Negligent hiring: failure to complete background checks or review work history before employing and maintaining employees after they exhibit a history of dangerous patient treatment.
  • Discrimination: refusing patient treatment based on sexual orientation, national origin, or race.
  • Negligent training: not providing employees with sanitation, safety, and other relevant practices.
  • Dangerous or negligent practices: reusing tools without cleaning them, creating hazardous conditions like wet floors, and failing to sanitize equipment.

You could sue a hospital for medical malpractice or negligence when their staff does not do what they are supposed to and causes you harm. No two cases are the same, and you must address your circumstances, even if they are not among the most common errors.

Steps for Suing a Hospital in the U.S.

Once you confirm your situation qualifies for a lawsuit against the hospital, you must take a few steps. While these are general steps you should take, additional steps or processes could apply to your case. A personal injury lawyer  from Malman Law can advise you of other steps that can apply to your circumstances.

Statute of Limitations

First, you must check whether you have time to file a lawsuit. When suing a hospital, there are often shorter deadlines for taking legal action. The reason is because you are suing an institution and not an individual. Each state has its own statute of limitations timeframe. For instance, in California, statutes range from one to ten years, so it is best to start the process quickly. Typically, personal injury cases fall into a two-year deadline.

Determining Fault

Another essential element is determining who you are suing. While the hospital is a great starting point, other parties could also be liable. It could be a doctor, equipment manufacturer, or someone else. The at-fault party is also essential in determining which legal avenue to use. For medical negligence cases, you could be going after an individual(s) who works at the hospital.

If you are pursuing a medical malpractice claim, you may have to find which doctor was negligent. They could have operated on the wrong body part or completed a procedure you did not need. Maybe the anesthesia did not hold, and you suffered complications. These could all qualify for medical malpractice. Lastly, a wrongful death claim could be the best route if a loved one dies. You will likely need to investigate your circumstances to determine fault and who you can sue.

Filing the Complaint

Once you have the preliminary information, your personal injury attorney can file your complaint with the court. It is an official document that outlines the hospital’s actions and negligence. It will also include the damages you are seeking, including:

  • Disability
  • Medical expenses
  • Disfigurement
  • Custodial care
  • Lost qualify of life
  • Lost income
  • Survival damages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Lost wages and employment
  • Funeral expenses
  • Out-of-pocket expenses

Since each case is unique, you may qualify for other losses. Some of the damages on this list might not apply to your case. You should keep track of your expenses so you can find which compensation applies to your circumstances.

Gathering Evidence

This process can be burdensome for plaintiffs. It involves gathering evidence, and while that may sound easy, it is not. The opposing side will have the right to interrogate you and request evidence from your legal team. We will do the same for them. There will be significant back and forth between both sides to get evidence. This process also involves requesting the production of documents, competing interrogatories, taking depositions, and working with expert witnesses.

Negotiating a Settlement

Once each side has sufficient documentation, they can negotiate. Ideally, after a few rounds of negotiations, you would settle the claim and get the compensation you deserve. Theoretically, this would be the end, but hospitals can push back and extend the process substantially. If there is sufficient evidence that the hospital was negligent, they may be inclined to settle out of court. However, if they cannot agree about your compensation, you might have to take the next step.

Litigation and Trial

When the hospital refuses to compensate you for your losses or cannot come to a fair agreement, you could enter the litigation process. Your medical malpractice  attorney and legal team are gearing up for trial. It does not mean you will make it to trial. There are various pre-trial conferences where parties meet to resolve the matter. If your case does get to trial, then many of the issues will be addressed.

Both sides will present their arguments during the trial, and the judge or jury will decide to compensate you. They can also dictate how much you can receive. It is rare for these cases to make it to trial, but the possibility is always there.

Winning a Hospital Lawsuit

Plaintiffs must prove various elements to successfully win a lawsuit against a hospital. The primary things you must prove are causation and fault. Plaintiffs should show the hospital failed in their duty to provide care and it caused injuries or losses. You can increase your chances and build a strong case with the following:

  • Medical records: this is critical evidence in your injury claim. The hospital staff will document everything they did and did not do while you were under their care. We can identify any errors in record keeping, administering medication, etc. Plaintiffs can request these records when they leave the hospital or have a medical malpractice lawyer do it for them.
  • Evidence of loss: you must prove that the hospital’s negligence resulted in damages. They can be liable to pay, but you should have evidence regarding what they owe you. Calculating your current and future losses will be critical in these circumstances.
  • Expert opinions: after gathering your medical documents, a medical expert can review them. They can assess whether the hospital and doctors breached their duty of care. Expert witnesses can also testify about your condition and provide reports.

A Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help

You could have the right to sue when you suffer an injury or other negligence at a hospital. The process can be challenging, but our medical malpractice lawyers can help. Call Malman Law to schedule an initial consultation today.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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