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Can You Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death?

Can You Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death?

It’s a fact of life that some hospital patients will die, but if the death of your family member was caused by negligence, you may be asking yourself, can you sue a hospital for wrongful death? You can if the facts and law support such a claim. You can talk to the attorneys at Evans & Herlihy to discuss whether this kind of lawsuit is right for your family.

You may file a wrongful death lawsuit if, under Texas law, a family member dies because of another’s “neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” A case could involve the hospital if it played a role in your loved one’s death.

If the hospital’s actions causing the death were grossly negligent or willful, you might be entitled to a punitive damages award. It would punish the hospital and discourage it, and others, from making the same mistakes.

Lawsuit for a Wrongful Death in a Hospital

Most wrongful death cases involving hospitals are based on claims that the hospital’s negligence caused their family member’s death. In a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital, the evidence would need to show:

  • The hospital or medical provider owed a duty or obligation to the deceased to do or not do something. A healthcare professional must use the generally accepted medical practices used by a group of medical professionals of similar background and training.
  • The obligation wasn’t met or the duty was breached. For example, the doctor failed to diagnose the patient with a condition needing immediate attention, or a nurse was distracted and gave a patient an overdose.
  • The actions, or lack of action, caused a fatal injury.
  • The plaintiff suffered damages (the measurement of harm in dollars).
  • Under Texas law, the defendant must compensate the plaintiff.

Possible Damages in a Hospital Wrongful Death Case

Who can receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit against a hospital? A surviving child, spouse, or parent can seek compensation for losses they suffered because they lost their loved one.

What types of damages can be awarded if you sue a hospital for wrongful death? Another law authorizes a “survival action,” where survivors can sue for losses by the deceased after the accident occurred. It can be considered a personal injury lawsuit that survives the plaintiff’s death. The damages available in a wrongful death action include:

  • The loss of an inheritance (what the family member would have reasonably been expected to earn and give if the person survived)
  • The loss of companionship, society, comfort, and love
  • The survivors’ emotional pain and suffering
  • The lost value of household services.

When Is a Hospital Responsible for Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death in a hospital could happen in many ways, but usually it’s due to:

  • The negligence of hospital employees (physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers)
  • The hospital’s negligence in hiring and supervising employees, maintaining and repairing its equipment, managing and overseeing the medical care at the hospital
  • Negligence related to its handling of non-employee staff or failure to create or enforce policies to keep patients safe.

How Can a Hospital be Responsible for Non-Employees?

A hospital is generally not liable for the negligence of non-employees. They could be physicians who treat patients at a hospital but who are not employed by the hospital.

The line between who’s an employee or an independent contractor is a complicated one. It’s driven by the facts of the relationship between the person and the hospital. If a healthcare professional is not an employee, he or she could be sued in their individual capacity.

Negligence by Healthcare Professionals

Types of medical negligence by physicians that could turn fatal include:

  • Failing to diagnose a condition, allowing it to progress to the point it might not be treatable
  • Diagnosing one condition while it’s actually something else, resulting in harm from unnecessary treatment and a delayed or missed diagnosis
  • Diagnosing a condition correctly but later than it should have been caught, making treatment more difficult or impossible
  • Negligence affecting pregnancy and childbirth
  • Mistakes in prescribing or administering medication
  • Errors during surgery,

Nurses can commit malpractice, too. Some of the more common nursing errors are:

  • Failing to monitor a patient’s vital signs properly
  • Failing to enter the patient’s nursing record into the patient’s chart
  • Medication mistakes, including giving the wrong type, in the wrong dosage, or at the wrong time
  • Failing to communicate symptoms and complaints to the physician in charge.

Negligence by the Hospital

Some of the ways a hospital’s negligence could kill a patient include:

  • Not verifying that healthcare providers are competent, safe, and licensed
  • Not firing incompetent, unlicensed, or unsafe employees
  • Not creating or enforcing protocols for issues like infection control, proper medication handling, and patient safety.

Can You Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death? Call Evans & Herlihy to Find Out.

Our attorneys know how the sudden death of a loved one impacts survivors. Family members may worry about how to provide for children now and in the long run. For others, monetary compensation is less important than holding the party responsible party for a family member’s death; accountability is the main goal. If you believe you may have a wrongful death case against a hospital, call us at (512) 732-2727.