Losing a family member due to the negligence of hospital staff can change your life emotionally, financially, and mentally. This loss can change your perception of healthcare providers. It may also impact the way you seek medical care in the future.
If a facility violated basic healthcare standards and did not provide tools to prevent the death of your relative, it can be found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Filing a wrongful death claim against a hospital facility may seem like a long shot, but it is possible.
When is a hospital liable for wrongful death?
There are several ways a hospital can be held liable. However, two ways are more common than others:
- Negligence of physicians, nurses, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals employed by the hospital
- Negligence in hiring or supervising its employees, poor maintenance of its equipment, and failure to properly oversee medical care provided at its facility
The keywords in these instances of negligence are “employed by” and “employees.”
Hospital Employees vs. Independent Contractors When Suing a Hospital for Wrongful Death
A negligent employee of a hospital causes the care facility to be held liable for that employee’s actions. Hiring independent contractors is one technique hospitals use to get around being held responsible for wrongful death.
Independent contractors are self-employed persons contracted to perform work or provide services to an entity. Physicians and nurses are commonly hired in contract positions, which means the hospital is not usually responsible for their medical negligence.
This is not always as cut-and-dried as it seems. These contracts and the amount of control a hospital has over the independent contractor affects whether they will be considered employees. Filing a claim against them can be tricky and difficult to navigate. That’s why getting advice from a lawyer is highly suggested when suing a hospital for wrongful death.
The hospital should not be off the hook simply because they claim an independent contractor caused the loss of life. Hospitals have a duty to verify the competence and professionalism of anyone that works within its facility. Your lawyer should make every attempt to check all areas – including understaffing, medication administration, patient care, and other forms of neglect – that might have caused the death.
How long do you have to file a lawsuit against a hospital?
The state of Alabama has a statute of limitations that allows the victim’s estate two years after death to file a wrongful death claim.
It’s important to note that Alabama only awards punitive damages in wrongful death cases, not costs associated with the victim’s death. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and discourage others from committing similar acts of negligence.
If you have lost a loved one due to the carelessness of a doctor or hospital, don’t try to handle it on your own. You need an attorney to exhaust every resource and get the compensation you deserve. If you need an attorney to work on your behalf, please contact the office of Timberlake & League. We can help.