Hospital negligence is a major factor in causing medical malpractice. Every year, too many Americans are negatively impacted by negligence in a hospital. If you or a loved one have been affected by hospital negligence and you’re left wondering if you can hold the hospital accountable, this article can help you learn what hospital negligence is and what you can do about it.
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What is Hospital Negligence?
Hospital negligence arises when a hospital employee, such as a doctor or nurse, fails to take proper care when treating a patient. In other words, the healthcare provider fails to do what a reasonable provider would do in the same or similar circumstances. We call that violating the standard of care.
Generally, you must prove the following to show hospital negligence occurred:
- • The hospital violated the standard of care, i.e., acted negligently;
- • The hospital’s negligence caused the patient’s injuries; and
- • The patient suffered damages because of the injury the negligence caused.
As an example, if the patient suffered injuries and damages because of an unsuccessful surgery but the medical staff acted reasonably, no hospital negligence is involved. Likewise, if a doctor was negligent but the patient was not injured, you may not be able to pursue a hospital negligence claim.
However, if a hospital employee acted negligently and caused your injuries, your best option for holding the hospital accountable and gaining compensation for your injuries may be to sue the hospital for negligence. A medical malpractice attorney can help you determine if the healthcare providers were negligent in your case, and can advise you of your best legal options.
How Common are Hospital Mistakes?
It is estimated that around 160,000 people die each year because of preventable hospital errors. So, while the average person is unlikely to experience a preventable medical tragedy, a significant amount of patients will. If you or a loved one have been injured because of negligent care in a hospital, you may need to seek out a top lawyer to discuss your claim.
Examples of Hospitals Negligence
One of the best ways to understand hospital negligence is to read examples of how it occurs. Of course, these examples are not exhaustive. The list of what can go wrong in a hospital is nearly endless. While the best way to determine if you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice is to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to evaluate your individual case, here are some examples of more common hospital negligence:
- Chart and Recording Errors
- From mislabeling vials of blood samples to listing the diagnosis of a different patient — data errors on a patient's charts and records can occur in many different ways and can have serious consequences. For example, it has been estimated that there is one transfusion error for every 19,000 units of blood. While this may seem like a simple mistake, giving the wrong blood type during a transfusion can have lethal consequences. Even simple errors can cause irreparable harm for a patient, and someone should be held responsible.
- Prescribing the Wrong Medication or Dosage
- Some patients have severe reactions to drugs that they are allergic to. Hospitals are required to document patient allergies and make sure they don’t accidentally give the wrong medicine to a patient. Other patients may suffer devastating effects because they depend upon the correct medication, and the hospital failed to give it to them or gave them the wrong dosage. Medication errors can be an example of hospital negligence, regardless of whether the damages are caused by the wrong drug or the lack of the correct drug. In the U.S., between 7,000 and 9,000 patients die because of medication errors.
- Premature Patient Discharge
- When a hospital is overcrowded or understaffed, it can be difficult to provide the appropriate level of care, and patients suffer the consequences. The medical staff may be inclined to make assumptions about a patient’s well-being and prematurely discharge the patient before it is medically appropriate to do so. Sending a patient home who is not medically ready to go home can have fatal consequences. If you suffered injury because the hospital discharged you before you were medically stable, you may have a case of hospital negligence.
- Patient Misdiagnosis
- In order to properly treat patients, it is necessary to diagnose the patient properly. Misdiagnosing the patient is a common hospital error. The results can be severe depending on the illness that the patient was misdiagnosed with, or that a doctor failed to diagnose altogether. For example, an Emergency Room physician may diagnose a patient with heartburn when in reality the patient is experiencing a heart attack. Doctors may also miss the warning signs of early stage cancer and fail to diagnose the cancer when it is still treatable. Here are a few statistics about misdiagnosis:
- • Twelve million Americans are affected by medical misdiagnosis annually.
- • Between 40,000 to 80,000 people die from misdiagnosis complications each year.
- • Women and minorities are between 20 to 30 percent more likely to experience misdiagnosis.
Common Causes of Hospital Negligence
Most medical professionals have spent years practicing medicine. So you may be wondering, “why is hospital negligence so common?” While negligence can be caused by the lack of care by the doctor, hospitals have the duty to try to minimize their hospital errors. When hospitals neglect the needs of their staff through management logistics such as understaffing, overworking physicians, and lacking necessary medical equipment, the probability of errors grows dramatically.
- Understaffed Departments
- Many hospital departments face issues related to understaffing. No matter how qualified a medical professional is, they can make preventable errors if they don’t have the proper support. Unfortunately, over 19% of US hospitals are critically understaffed. When a physician does not have the necessary support staff, it becomes more difficult to give the required attention to each individual patient. Medical negligence due to understaffing is not only the responsibility of the negligent physician, but also of the hospital itself.
- Overworked Medical Professionals
- When the hospital doesn’t fill the necessary staffing positions, they resort to excessively scheduling the staff that is available, resulting in hospital staff being overworked, exhausted, and facing burnout. Since 2020, 18% of healthcare workers have quit, and another 12% have been laid off. An additional 60 to 75% of front-line workers report symptoms linked to burnout. When hospital workers are chronically fatigued, they are more likely to make easily avoidable mistakes that have detrimental consequences.
- Medical Equipment Shortages
- Hospitals have the responsibility of providing staff with the equipment necessary to treat and care for patients. Although insufficient supplies of large essential equipment, such as ventilators, is disturbing, more so is the lack of standard medical supplies, like:
- • Defibrillators
- • Anesthesia
- • Antibiotics
- • Chemotherapy agents
- • Hypodermic needles
- • Syringes
- • Surgical gloves
- • Catheters
- • Blood collection tubes
When running low on these types of everyday supplies, hospitals may instruct their staff to restrict their use to reserve them. This leads medical professionals to decline using necessary supplies or performing procedures on patients that should be getting them to save them for patients with more obvious needs. When physicians are forced to choose between patients, it creates an environment likely to cause errors in diagnosis and treatment and can lead to deadly consequences for patients with less obvious symptoms.
Who is Liable for Hospital Negligence
Medical errors can be costly mistakes. There is a reason that healthcare workers take out liability insurance. Generally, a patient can sue a doctor directly when that doctor has committed a negligent act. However, when the hospital employs the healthcare provider who was negligent, or the hospital makes its own mistakes through staffing or its policies, the hospital can be directly liable to a patient. Determining who is liable for medical negligence depends on the facts of the individual case. Skilled medical malpractice lawyers can help determine which parties are responsible for your injuries and damages.
Our Experienced Attorneys Can Help
If you or a loved one have been injured due to hospital negligence, it is essential that you speak with a medical malpractice lawyer about your rights and options. The experienced malpractice lawyers at D'Amore Personal Injury Law, LLC can explain the legal process to you at every step, ensuring that you are aware of your options and give you the necessary information to make the best decision for you and your family. Contact us today to arrange your free consultation.