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Can You Sue a Hospital for Medical Malpractice or Negligence?

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Can You Sue a Hospital for Medical Malpractice or Negligence?

Can You Sue a Hospital for Malpractice or Negligence?

When you seek medical care at a hospital, you expect to receive treatment to help you recover from illness or injury. However, medical errors, such as improper medical treatment, surgical or diagnostic errors, and administration of wrong medication, can lead to further harm and potential lawsuits against hospitals.

According to the Medical Malpractice Center, in the United States, there are between 15,000 and 19,000 medical malpractice lawsuits filed against doctors each year. Understanding when and how you can hold a hospital accountable for such errors is crucial for protecting your rights and seeking justice.

This comprehensive guide explores the scenarios in which you can sue a hospital, the legal processes involved, and the importance of proper legal representation.

Contact us today for a free consultation with our expert personal injury lawyers. We’ll fight for your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice and Negligence?

Medical malpractice happens when a healthcare provider moves away from the accepted standard of care, resulting in harm to the patient. Negligence involves the failure to take proper care in doing something, which can lead to injury or damage. In a hospital setting, both medical malpractice and medical negligence can manifest in various forms, including misdiagnosis, medication errors, surgical mistakes, and more. Learn more about the key differences between medical negligence vs. medical malpractice.

Understanding these terms is essential because they form the basis of any legal action taken against a healthcare or medical facility anywhere. To succeed in a malpractice or negligence claim, you must prove that the hospital’s actions were below the standard expected in the medical community and that these actions directly caused your injuries. Knowledge of medical malpractice law is crucial in navigating these legal challenges effectively.

Scenarios for Suing a Hospital

Various situations can give you grounds to sue a hospital for negligence. Understanding these scenarios can help determine if you have a valid case.

  1. Wrong Treatment: Receiving improper medical treatment or medication can exacerbate your condition or cause new health issues. For example, if a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or dosage, it can lead to severe reactions or even death.
  2. Staff Negligence: Errors made by hospital staff, such as failing to sanitize equipment, improper patient monitoring, or leaving surgical instruments inside the body, constitute negligence. These treatment mistakes can lead to infections, complications, and long-term health problems. In such cases, the hospital responsible for the staff’s actions can be held liable for the resulting patient’s injuries.
  3. Wrongful Death: If a loved one dies due to negligence or malpractice during medical care, surviving family members might have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of claim seeks to hold the hospital accountable for the loss and the emotional and financial impact on the family. Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., following heart disease and cancer.
  4. Discrimination: Denial of treatment based on race, sexual orientation, or other protected statuses is not only unethical but also illegal. Hospitals are required to provide equal care to all patients, and failure to do so can be grounds for a lawsuit.

Hospitals are typically responsible for their employees’ actions but not necessarily for independent contractors. This distinction is crucial for determining liability, as hospitals may not be held accountable for the actions of non-employees unless certain conditions are met.

Common Reasons for Hospital Lawsuits

Understanding the common reasons for hospital lawsuits helps identify potential legal issues in your case. These are some of the typical grounds for legal action.

  1. Misdiagnosis: Incorrect or delayed diagnosis can lead to inappropriate treatment, worsening the patient’s condition. For example, misdiagnosing a heart attack as indigestion can prevent timely and potentially life-saving interventions. Nearly one-third (32%) of medical malpractice claims are due to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
  2. Medication Errors: Administering the wrong medication or dosage can have catastrophic consequences. Medication errors can result in severe allergic reactions, worsening of the condition, or even death.
  3. Surgical Errors: Mistakes during surgery, such as operating on the wrong site or leaving instruments inside the patient, can cause significant harm. Surgical errors, often resulting in additional surgeries, long-term disability, or death, frequently lead to medical malpractice claims. These claims require medical expert testimony to prove negligence due to the avoidable nature of the errors. Research from Johns Hopkins University reveals that surgical errors occur at least 4,000 times annually in the U.S.
  4. Technical Errors: Issues like failure to sanitize equipment or improper monitoring of patients can lead to serious infections or health complications. Technical errors also include mistakes made by medical technicians, such as incorrect use of equipment.
  5. Negligence: General medical negligence includes actions like reusing needles, leaving floors wet, or not following patient safety protocols. These unsafe practices can put patients at risk of infections, falls, and other preventable serious injuries.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations refers to the legal deadline within which an individual must file a lawsuit. This period varies by state but generally ranges from two to six years. In Illinois, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of injury or discovery. Wisconsin also allows two years to sue a hospital, while Missouri provides up to five years. It is crucial to file your claim within this timeframe to ensure your case is considered. Some states have a “discovery rule,” which means the clock starts ticking when the injury is discovered rather than when it occurred.

suing a hospital for misdiagnosis
medical professionals and hospital staff

Distinguishing Hospital Employees from Independent Contractors

Establishing whether the healthcare provider is an employee or an independent contractor is crucial for determining liability. If the doctor is an independent contractor, the hospital may not be liable for their actions unless:

  1. The hospital failed to disclose this status.
  2. The hospital was negligent in hiring or retaining the contractor.

Hospitals are responsible for their employees but may escape liability for independent contractors unless it can be shown that the hospital treated the contractor as an employee or failed to disclose the contractor’s status adequately. Whether the individual responsible for the error is an actual hospital employee or an independent contractor can significantly impact the potential for a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital.

Steps to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Against a Hospital

Filing a lawsuit against a hospital for medical malpractice involves several crucial steps. This medical malpractice lawsuits process is complex and requires careful planning and adherence to legal protocols to build a strong case. Here are the important steps in a medical malpractice lawsuit:

  1. Check the Statute of Limitations: Ensure you are within the legal timeframe to file a lawsuit in your state. Each state has different deadlines, and missing this deadline can result in your case being dismissed.
  2. Determine Fault: Identify who is liable for your injuries—the hospital, a doctor, or another party. This step may involve investigating the hospital’s practices and the employment status of the healthcare providers involved. For instance, if a nurse employed by the hospital administered the wrong medication or to the wrong patient, the hospital could be liable.
  3. File a Complaint: Your lawyer will help you document the hospital’s negligence and specify the damages you seek. The complaint should detail how the hospital’s actions failed to meet the standard of care and caused your injuries. This official document is submitted to the court to initiate the legal process.
  4. Gather Evidence: Collect all relevant medical records, witness statements, and expert testimonies to support your case. Evidence might include documentation of your treatment, testimony from other medical professionals, and records showing the hospital’s failure to follow proper protocols. For example, if a surgical error occurred, you would need surgical reports and expert opinions to demonstrate the mistake.
  5. Negotiate a Settlement: Attempt to settle out of court if possible. Many hospitals prefer to avoid the negative publicity of a trial and might offer a settlement. Your lawyer can help negotiate a fair amount. Settlements can be quicker and less stressful than going to court.
  6. Litigation and Trial: If a settlement isn’t reached, your case may go to trial. Most malpractice cases are settled before trial. Both sides will present evidence, and a judge or jury will decide the outcome. Trials can be lengthy and complex, requiring expert witnesses and thorough preparation.

Only about 7 percent of medical malpractice cases reach a jury, with plaintiffs winning 21 percent of those. The average jury award is $799,000. On average, patients wait 16.5 months to file and another 27.5 months to resolve their cases. 

Proving Medical Malpractice

Proving medical malpractice involves demonstrating that the hospital’s actions were negligent and directly caused harm. This process requires substantial evidence and expert testimony to establish the link between the hospital’s conduct and your injuries. Speaking with a medical malpractice lawyer can provide the necessary legal expertise to navigate this complex process.

  1. Duty of Care: The hospital owed you a standard of care. This means they had a legal responsibility to provide competent medical treatment.
  2. Breach of Duty: The hospital failed to meet this standard. For example, if a medical professional misdiagnosed a serious medical condition despite clear symptoms, this could be considered a breach.
  3. Causation: Establish that the hospital’s breach of duty of care directly caused your injuries. For instance, if a surgical error by medical professionals resulted in severe complications, this establishes causation.
  4. Damages: You suffered quantifiable harm as a result of the breach. Damages may entail medical expenses, lost wages, permanent disability, pain and suffering, and other losses. For example, a misdiagnosis that led to delayed treatment and worsened your condition would constitute damages.

Average Payouts for Medical Negligence

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that the average payment to victims of medical malpractice is slightly over $300,000.

The actual amount you might receive depends on the severity of the injury, state laws, and the specifics of your medical malpractice case. Hospital negligence payouts can cover present and future medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Notable Hospital Negligence Cases

Hospital negligence can take many forms, each with severe consequences for patients. Here are some specific examples of medical errors:

Case 1 

A Baltimore judge upheld a historic $205 million verdict for a Prince George’s County woman after her daughter suffered a brain injury during birth at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. This is considered the largest medical malpractice verdict in U.S. history. (Source)

Case 2

In the Emergency Department (ED), a PA diagnosed a patient with cellulitis and prescribed antibiotics, discharging them without an Emergency Physician (EP) exam. 12 hours later, the patient returned with acute arterial occlusion, resulting in leg amputations. The patient sued, and the jury awarded $5 million due to the negligence in diagnosis and treatment. (Source)

Case 3

An Air Force veteran had his healthy right testicle mistakenly removed instead of the diseased left one at West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. The surgeon failed to mark the correct side, leading to a $200,000 malpractice lawsuit. (Source)

Case 4

Seventeen-year-old Jesica Santillan died after surgeons at Duke University Medical Center transplanted incompatible donor organs. A second operation led to complications, resulting in a coma and eventual brain damage. The hospital attributed her death to human error. (Source)

Case 5

A New York nursing home gave a diabetic woman insulin against her discharge orders. The mistake led to a $47,000 fine, nurse discipline, and staff retraining. It was Buffalo’s largest nursing home fine that year, per Becker’s Hospital Review. (Source)

Expert Testimony

Medical expert testimony is crucial in medical malpractice cases to establish that a healthcare provider’s actions fell below accepted standards, resulting in harm to the patient. Experts clarify the expected standard of care and highlight any deviations by the provider. They also quantify damages by assessing future treatment needs and lost wages, if applicable. 

The credibility of expert witnesses from both sides plays a significant role in the outcome of these cases. A skilled medical negligence attorney can assist in selecting credible experts to strengthen your claim.

Legal Representation

Hiring a specialized medical malpractice attorney is essential for navigating complex legal and medical issues, gathering evidence, and negotiating with insurance companies. An experienced lawyer plays several critical roles:

  1. Case Evaluation: A medical malpractice attorney will evaluate your case to determine if it meets the legal requirements for a lawsuit. This involves reviewing your medical records, consulting with medical experts, and evaluating the extent of your injuries.
  2. Evidence Gathering: Your attorney will collect and organize evidence to support your claim. This includes obtaining medical records, witness statements, and expert testimonies that demonstrate the hospital’s negligence.
  3. Legal Documentation: Filing a lawsuit requires precise documentation. Your attorney will prepare and submit all necessary legal documents, ensuring that they meet court requirements and deadlines.
  4. Negotiation: Most medical malpractice cases are settled out of court. Your attorney will negotiate with the hospital’s legal team and insurance companies to secure a fair settlement that covers your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
  5. Trial Representation: If your case reaches trial, your medical negligence attorney will represent you in court. This involves presenting evidence, questioning witnesses, and making legal arguments to prove your case. An experienced attorney is crucial for navigating the complexities of a trial and maximizing your chances of a favorable outcome.
  6. Expert Coordination: Your personal injury lawyer will work with medical experts to provide testimony that supports your claim. Medical experts can prove how the hospital’s actions breached the standard of care, leading to your injuries.

An experienced medical malpractice attorney provides the expertise and support needed to build a strong case and seek the compensation you deserve. They help ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the process. A personal injury attorney specializing in medical malpractice can offer the necessary legal guidance and representation to strengthen your medical malpractice claim against the hospital.


Suing a hospital for medical malpractice or negligence involves understanding specific legal criteria and processes. If you’ve suffered due to hospital negligence, consult a medical malpractice attorney to explore your legal options and ensure your rights are protected. With the right legal representation, you can seek justice and compensation for the physical harm and mental suffering you have experienced.

If you are looking to sue a hospital for medical negligence or malpractice, our personal injury lawyer will help you recover fair compensation. Call (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation and discuss hospital negligence cases.


What are some possible cases of negligence in a hospital setting? 

Negligence in a hospital setting can include errors such as administering the wrong medication or leaving surgical instruments inside a patient after surgery.

What should you do if a hospital is mistreating you? 

If a hospital is mistreating you, you should document the issues and consider contacting a medical malpractice attorney for advice.

Can you sue a hospital for emotional distress? 

Yes, you can sue a hospital for emotional distress if it results from medical malpractice or negligence that caused serious harm.

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