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What constitutes hospital negligence?

Many people experience medical malpractice each year, in a number of forms. In 2012, there were $3.6 billion dollars in payout for medical malpractice suits. You or a loved one may have recently been at a hospital and found that your stay wasn?t as peachy as you hoped, leading to questions: What is hospital negligence? What is the hospital liable for? Can I sue? Should I sue?


Cases in which the patient is injured are known as “Vicarious Liability.” Hospitals are public and private corporations and can always be held to the same standard as other entities in that classification. You may have heard horror stories of some types of hospital negligence. Situations such as a tool being left in the body after surgery, a slip and fall on the premises (yes, the hospital is liable!), not having a nurse available to take care of you – all of these are considered hospital negligence.

Let?s run through an example of vicarious liability. You go in for an emergency appendectomy, get checked in, and taken in for surgery. You wake up, and there is no nurse on call. Weeks later, after going through an airport metal detector, you discover a small surgical instrument was left in your stomach. Not only is the hospital vicariously liable for the surgical instrument, but if you are able to prove that there was no nurse available, they are additionally liable for that.

Still, who can you sue? In a negligent case such as the previous example, there may be multiple defendants involved in the legal proceedings, such as the doctor who performed the surgery, and the hospital as an entity for not having even nurses on call. If your experience was with pharmaceuticals causing side effects and harm not covered in the warnings, even the pharmaceutical company may be liable. Expert witnesses may be required for less direct issues unlike a sponge or medical tool being left in the body, so consult wisely before litigation. Many states in the country have different statute of limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits as well, meaning you should investigate quite soon after cases of hospital negligence and malpractice like this.


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