One of the leading causes of death for Americans is medical malpractice. It trails third behind cancer and heart disease, according to the Journal of Patient Safety published in 2013. Surgical errors, wrong diagnosis and unintentional laceration are just a few forms of medical malpractice that occur across the U.S. daily. It’s a sad irony that the very place we go to heal is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths every year, per the report.
Despite the recent, and often confusing, changes to laws, healthcare professionals have both a moral and legal duty to ensure their medical practices are professional at all times. Doctors and hospitals who cause injury and undue suffering to patients trusting in their care should be held accountable.
When your safety and health have been compromised by hospital negligence, an attorney who understands the nuances of hospital negligence cases can deliver justice on your behalf.
What Is Hospital Negligence?
Hospitals are liable for the actions of their employees. When a hospital staff member – such as nurses, technicians and doctors – fails to provide proper care to a patient, it can be considered negligence. An inadequate and poorly trained staff is also included in this definition. As long as an employee caused injury to a patient in the course of their work duties, the hospital can be held responsible.
A point of interest in hospital negligence concerns the status of a doctor. A hospital is only liable for a doctor’s error if the doctor is considered an employee. For example, a doctor who caused a severe laceration during the course of surgery is personally liable for the injury, and could face a medical malpractice lawsuit. If said doctor is part of the hospital staff (not an “attending physician”), the hospital can also be sued for negligence. If an attending operating room technician miscounts the tools, and the doctor accidently leaves one in the patient as a result – the doctor would also be liable, but not the hospital.
As you can see, assigning fault in medical malpractice cases can get complicated. This is why it serves your best interest to speak with a hospital negligence attorney, who can help you file a claim against all parties involved.
According to a famous study conducted by the government’s Institute of Medicine, 98,000 people die every year due to preventable medical errors in hospitals. Furthermore, research suggests that 15 million incidents of preventable medical error occur annually in the United States. Medical error is the 6th leading cause of death, killing more people annually than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and pneumonia.
Types of Hospital Negligence
Hospital negligence occurs when a staff member fails to take adequate measures to ensure a patient’s safety. More loosely defined as medical errors, types of hospital negligence include:
Misdiagnosis: correctly identifying symptoms is critical to providing patients with proper treatment. The wrong medication or therapy as a result of a misdiagnosis can cause long-term damage to the body, and possibly death.
Delayed diagnosis: this is considered a form of negligence, if another doctor would have diagnosed the same condition in a reasonable amount of time. This is especially impactful with potentially deadly conditions, such as pulmonary embolism, heart disease and cancer.
Unsterilized, defective or improper equipment: any of these three medical errors can cause serious injury to a patient.
Wrong site, wrong surgery: although the doctor is more likely to be held liable in these cases, a vast majority of surgical errors occur due to operating room scheduling and administrative mistakes.
Unintentional laceration or perforation: a slip with the scalpel, or other misuse of surgical equipment, may result in uncontrollable bleeding and organ damage.
Foreign object left in the body: virtually any type of surgical equipment left in the body can lead to horrendous pain and infection.
Nurse Malpractice and Negligence
In a hospital setting, it is often the nurses who have the most frequent contact with patients. Nurse malpractice is one area of hospital negligence for which both the nurse and hospital can be held liable. Common forms of nursing mistakes include:
- Giving the wrong type of food to a patient
- Administering the wrong medication or wrong dosage
- Failure to report new symptoms or patient complaints and concerns to the doctor
- Failure to keep proper records
Childbirth and Labor Malpractice
Errors during labor and delivery can negatively impact the quality of life for both the mother and child. Some lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, can be directly linked to delivery room errors. Some childbirth and labor trauma negligence includes:
- Failure to order a C-section
- Failure to monitor fetal vital signs
- Failure to recommend a treatment plan for high-risk pregnancies
- Improper delivery technique resulting in injury to the infant
- Failure to monitor the mother during labor
Negligent Long-Term Treatment
Extensive injury, such as spinal cord or traumatic brain injury, requires a long hospital stay and long-term care plan. When the hospital staff fails to monitor a patient’s response to treatment, or to follow up on a patient, the hospital may be held liable.
Emergency Room Errors
Proper, immediate care is critical to patient survival and recovery in the emergency room. The fast-pace, high stress environment of the ER only increases the chances of medical errors. Unfortunately, the slightest mistake could lead to immense pain or even death. Common emergency room mishaps that contribute to negligence include:
- Failure to promptly and properly diagnose a patient
- Failure to conduct, evaluate and follow-up on tests and procedures
- Failure to attend to the patient in a timely manner
- Failure to perform the right procedure at the right time
Proving a Hospital Negligence Claim
Some instances of hospital negligence, such as a slip and fall, are rather straight forward and may be settled out of court. When the negligence involves errors made by medical professionals, things get more complicated. Medical malpractice cases not only require extensive and diligent research into medical records, they also require expert testimony from others in the medical field.
Even proving the doctor is an employee of the hospital, and not an independent contractor, can be tricky. Often a judge holds the ultimate decision of whether a doctor qualifies as a hospital employee. One of the things you must prove is that the hospital failed to properly screen the doctor before hiring him or her. For these reasons, an attorney whose practice area includes medical malpractice is best equipped to guide you through the nuances of hospital negligence laws.
A Patient’s Legal Rights
Citizens have a constitutional right to seek compensation when they suffer harm at the hands of hospitals or medical professionals. In addition to protecting other patients from subsequent harm, medical malpractice lawsuits can help victims and their families seek compensation for:
- Loss of wages and reduced earning potential
- Medical care costs
- Out of pocket expenses
- Quality of life
- Loss of a child, spouse or other loved one
- Loss of fertility
- Loss of limb or sight
- Additional related damages
The first step in protecting your legal rights is to seek the qualified counsel of an experienced attorney who handles cases of medical and hospital malpractice. The attorneys at Oshman & Mirisola do not tolerate recklessness, especially from healthcare professionals who have a moral obligation to heal and care for the people. We can sit down with you to discuss your questions and concerns and determine your best course of action. Please contact us today by calling 800-400-8182.