When you check into a hospital, you expect the best of care. After all, hospitals are meant to heal. Unfortunately, sometimes hospitals fail to provide adequate care, which can lead to infection, injury, or worse – death. What are your options when you or a loved one leave the hospital with an injury?
What Constitutes Negligence?
We define negligence as the failure to act with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised to prevent harm. For example, we expect a driver to drive safely and take reasonable care not to endanger other drivers; driving recklessly is negligent. In order to prove negligence as a cause of injury, four factors must be in place:
- Duty. The defendant must owe a duty to the plaintiff. In other words, the defendant should have acted with a reasonable amount of care in the situation to protect the plaintiff from harm. In the medical community, it is understood that medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care, a duty to provide adequate medical care expected of a reasonable medical professional.
- Breach of duty. The plaintiff’s attorney must prove the defendant breached his or her duty of care. For a doctor, breaching a duty of care means failing to provide adequate medical care in a way that risks or causes harm to the plaintiff.
- Proximate cause. The defendant is only responsible if he could have foreseen the outcome of his actions. For example, if a doctor knew failing to wash his hands could lead to infection, he is the proximate cause of the infection.
- Damages. The plaintiff must prove the defendant’s negligence caused actual damages, usually in the form of injuries or financial losses.
Overall, if you can prove a medical professional owed you a duty of care – which is fairly simple in the case of medical professionals involved in your case – and prove that person failed to provide you with care considered standard by a reasonable person, that person may be negligent. If negligence led to injuries on your part, you may sue for compensation of your medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering, or even lost employment as a result of your injuries.
Who Can I Sue?
First, you need to determine if the medical professional is a hospital employee – hospitals can be held liable for the negligence of their direct employees, but not for that of non-employees. Typically, the hospital directly employs nurses, but more often than not, doctors are not employees. If a non-employee, you will usually need to sue the person directly since the hospital is not responsible for his or her negligence.
However, in cases where a hospital allows a doctor privileges even after it acknowledges he or she is engaging in negligent behavior, the hospital is liable as well. Other situations can arise where the plaintiff is under the impression that the doctor was a hospital employee, which would assign liability to the hospital. In either case, you would need to prove the hospital knew of the situation and allowed it to go on, causing you injury.
Overall, if you are injured in a situation where a medical professional’s negligence while performing medical duties caused you injury, you can sue for malpractice. If another hospital employee – maybe a janitor – neglected to clean up an area, causing you to slip and fall, you could sue the hospital for negligence.
Navigating the ins and outs of hospital employees, contractors, negligence, and malpractice can be tricky. Your best bet is usually to contact a Layton medical malpractice attorney to help you determine which set of specifics you have experienced. A lawyer can fight for you while you focus on recovering from your injuries and often will not take payment unless he or she wins your case.