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Can you sue a hospital for wrongful death? There are some instances in which you can. Sometimes you can sue the hospital itself. In others, you may be able to sue the doctor or other healthcare provider who you believe caused the death. And in still others, more than one party may be liable.

Here are instances when you may be able to hold a hospital liable for wrongful death:

  • When the negligence of a doctor, nurse or other staff person directly employed by the hospital caused the death.
  • When the hospital’s own actions cause a death, such as in cases when proper patient safety standards are not in place.

Proving Wrongful Death in a Hospital Can Be Difficult

If you suspect your family member died a wrongful death in a hospital, it is a wise idea to get the help of a skilled wrongful death law firm that will investigate what happened and handle all the legal hurdles for you. Proving wrongful death against hospitals can be extremely difficult. Medical information is very complex and hard to understand. It can take an expert witness who is a medical provider themselves to get at the truth in these cases. But the medical community often sticks together in these situations, making it difficult to find expert witnesses to testify. An experienced wrongful death attorney will have the resources to meet these challenges. 

When Can You Sue a Hospital for a Doctor’s Negligence?

Doctors in hospitals are supposed to heal not harm. So how does wrongful death in a hospital due to a doctor or other provider even happen? Hospitals are busy places. Doctors are often overworked and being pulled in many different directions. They may make errors during surgery, childbirth, in diagnosing illnesses or treating injuries. When a death occurs because of a doctor error, it may be a case of negligence. Negligence is when a doctor violates the medical standard of care. If this violation results in a death, the doctor and the hospital that employs them may be held liable if negligence can be proven.

Some Doctors are Not Hospital Employees, So the Hospital Can’t be Sued

Some doctors use hospital facilities to perform surgeries or see patients, but they are not employed by the hospital. They are independent contractors. If a doctor who is not employed by the hospital caused the wrongful death, the hospital typically cannot be sued. But there can be a fine line between being a hospital employee and a contractor. When you work with an attorney, they can examine the legal issues in this area to help figure out employment status.

How Are Hospitals Themselves Responsible for Wrongful Deaths?

Hospitals can be held liable when they don’t have conventions in place to properly care for patients and this leads to injury and death. This can include a lack of conventions for things such as:

  • Keeping facilities clean and sanitized
  • Preventing patients from developing infectious bed sores
  • Stopping patients from falling
  • Properly giving medications
  • Hiring competent personnel
  • Getting rid of unlicensed or incompetent workers.

If any of these things or other forms of hospital mismanagement led to the death of a patient, the hospital may be sued.

Can I Sue Both the Hospital and the Doctor in a Wrongful Death Case?

Whether you sue both the hospital and the doctor depends upon the facts of your case. It can also depend on whether the doctor has enough insurance to cover your wrongful death suit. If the doctor does not, and the doctor was a direct employee of the hospital, it may make sense to sue the hospital in addition to the doctor. Whom to hold liable is a decision that should be made with the help of a wrongful death attorney who is experienced in fighting for the rights of clients in medical malpractice cases.

How Much Can I Ask for in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against a Hospital?

In Alabama, damage awards in wrongful death lawsuits are meant to punish negligent wrongdoers rather than compensate survivors. Awards are also meant to deter the wrongdoer from acting the same way in the future. These are called punitive damages.

What you can ask for in punitive damages when you sue a hospital for wrongful death usually depends upon the degree of negligence. The worse the behavior or actions of the hospital, the more you may be able to get. What you might get could be anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the circumstances of your case. It also depends on the skill of your attorney. Before you can collect compensation, negligence by the hospital must be proven.

Also, in Alabama, only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate can actually file the lawsuit. Family members cannot unless they are the personal representative. Settlements from wrongful death lawsuits go to the estate.

Time Limit for Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against a Hospital

There is a two-year statute of limitations from the date of death for filing wrongful death lawsuits. There are factors that determine when the clock starts running, so always speak directly with an Alabama attorney about your unique case when considering a wrongful death claim.

Get Help from Our Compassionate Wrongful Death Attorneys

Hospitals are supposed to be healing places. You should not have to worry that your family member could die because of a hospital’s or hospital employees’ careless actions. Sadly, though, wrongful deaths in hospitals can and do happen. If your family member has died, we want to help you. During this sensitive and emotional time when you have lost a beloved family member, you should not put yourself through the stress of trying to figure out exactly how the death happened. We will take on that work for you.

Our attorneys at Caldwell Wenzel & Asthana are passionate about delivering justice to clients who have lost family members due to medical negligence. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced wrongful death lawyers. We can be reached at (251) 444-7000. We are committed to our clients and will fight for you.

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