Hospitals play an important role in our healthcare system, providing essential care and treatment to millions of patients every year. However, these facilities can sometimes fall short of the expected standards in this field.
This can lead to medical issues that entitle you to legal remedies. In such cases, it becomes essential to seek legal recourse, address grievances, and seek compensation when necessary. To completely understand these complex situations, it’s important to know the different types of lawyers who sue hospitals and when to hire them.
1. Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Medical malpractice refers to situations where healthcare providers fail to meet the standard of care set by the medical industry. This failure to follow the set standards can lead to injuries, complications, or even death of the patient.
Note, though, that not all medical errors can be the subject of a medical practice lawsuit. To successfully pursue medical malpractice, the following situations must be present:
The patient must have a legitimate doctor-patient relationship with the healthcare provider in question. Keep in mind that medical malpractice isn’t limited to your doctor. The healthcare provider can be a professional like your nurse, surgeon, anesthesiologist, dentist, and others.
Breach of Standard of Care
The healthcare professional must have breached the standard of care set by the industry. This means that they acted with negligence or made errors that a competent professional ordinarily wouldn’t.
There must be a direct link between the healthcare professional’s negligence and the injury of the patient. In some cases, it’s enough that the negligence of the professional “aggravated” an existing injury of the patient.
Finally, you need to prove damages suffered because of medical malpractice or neglect. Damages can include physical injuries, financial losses, or emotional distress.
Experienced medical malpractice lawyers can help you reach a fair settlement before the case goes to trial. This helps minimize the time wasted on the process as well as save costs for both parties.
Of course, there are instances when settlement is impossible, especially when the other party becomes unreasonable, leading to litigation. If this happens, your lawyer should be prepared to take the case to court. They will present evidence, interview witnesses, and argue on your behalf to prove negligence and seek compensation.
2. Personal Injury Lawyers
Personal injury lawyers play a critical role in the legal landscape, focusing on cases where individuals have sustained physical or emotional injuries due to accidents, negligence, or even intentional harm. Lawyers practicing in this branch of law are often sought after by victims who want justice and compensation for the damage they endured.
Typical situations necessitating personal injury lawyers include the following:
Automobile accidents are among the most common reasons for seeking personal injury lawyers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2013, motor vehicle collisions account for more than 32,000 deaths and 2 million injuries in the United States.
Slip and Fall Incidents
When someone is injured due to hazardous conditions on another person’s property, personal injury lawyers can assist in pursuing claims against the property owner. A good example is the case of Choto versus Dorothy D. Inc., where Choto filed a suit against McDonald’s for a slip and fall accident and won a substantial settlement.
Premises liability refers to injuries occurring to a person on someone else’s property, including a hospital. Note that personal injury lawyers are usually brought in if the injuries are serious, leading to significant financial losses for the person injured. Liability disputes, insurance disputes, and complex cases may also require an attorney’s intervention.
3. Wrongful Death Lawyers
Wrongful death lawyers specialize in guiding surviving family members through the legal process following the untimely loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence. Their roles include advocating for the surviving family members, investigating, establishing liability, calculating damages, negotiating, and litigating. Wrongful death is a lot like a personal injury claim except the person filing the case is usually the family or legal representative of the victim.
The statute of limitations should also be considered in wrongful death cases. This refers to the period that victims must file their case before it essentially expires.
The deadline may vary from one State to another. In some states, the timeline starts from the death of the victim. However, some States follow the “Discovery Rule” where the filing party can file the suit from the discovery of the cause of death or from the time that the filing party should have discovered the cause of death.
To succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit, the attorney must prove that the responsible party failed to exercise reasonable care, that this lack of care led to the incident causing the death, and that the death resulted in damages. Ideally, your lawyer should have experience in both personal injury and wrongful death cases.
This helps them navigate complex legal processes, negotiate effectively with insurance companies, and if necessary, litigate cases in court.
A good example of wrongful death is the case of Jessica Santillan. She was a 17-year-old patient at Duke University Hospital who underwent a heart and lung transplant.
Unfortunately, the doctors failed to confirm the blood type of the patient. As a result, they transferred the wrong organs to the patient. This mistake caused her body to reject the organs and despite the effort, her condition worsened until her death on February 22, 2003.
4. Product Liability Lawyers
Product liability lawsuits occur due to defective products that cause harm to consumers.
Defective product lawyers, otherwise known as product liability attorneys, help establish the link between the injury and the negligence of the manufacturer, distributor, retailer, or any other liable party based on the unique circumstances of the case.
Defects in the product can be in various forms. First, it could be a design defect where the design of the item in question is inherently dangerous or faulty.
It could also be a manufacturing defect where some products are incorrectly made, making them potentially hazardous.
To summarize, let’s look at different scenarios where you may need a product liability lawyer to sue a hospital on your behalf.
A defective product attorney can sue a hospital if:
- a medical device like a pacemaker or surgical implant used in the hospital is defective and harms a patient;
- a patient suffers adverse effects from contaminated drugs or blood transfusions;
- faulty or improperly sterilized surgical equipment causes infections or complications to the patient;
- they fail to provide adequate warnings or instructions about the risks of a product used, leading to patient harm; or
- they use products that have been recalled or are not approved by regulatory bodies, and this harms a patient.
5. Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
These lawyers are professionals who specialize in representing individuals and their families who have suffered harm or abuse in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. They help advocate for the rights and well-being of vulnerable elderly individuals residing in such facilities.
An interesting case of nursing home abuse is with the Illinois Care Facility operated by the Alden Group. In this case, lawyers were able to prove that the nursing home deliberately kept the facility understaffed despite the decreased standard of care to the residents.
The complaint alleged that the number of staff was significantly lower than regulatory standards and this led to health problems going untreated or residents having to wait and suffer before being accorded the treatment they needed. Some residents were even asked to sign documents waiving their right to sue the nursing home facility, which is not allowed under State laws.
6. Employment Lawyers
So far, we’ve talked about seeking a settlement for persons who were injured by a company or another individual. But what if you are an employee of the company? That’s where labor and employment lawyers come in.
These attorneys specialize in matters related to employment and labor law. In this context, therefore, the party suing is an employee of the healthcare facility such as a nurse, a doctor, or even a receptionist.
Here are several scenarios where the involvement of an employment lawyer is necessary:
Discrimination and Harassment
Discrimination and harassment based on factors such as race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and disability are hot topics today. Labor attorneys have quickly adapted to the trend and assist employees in addressing these issues through negotiation, mediation, and litigation.
If you were unlawfully terminated, employment lawyers can assess the circumstances and advise on whether there are grounds for a legal claim. They may also help negotiate settlements or file lawsuits on your behalf.
An interesting case of wrongful termination in the medical field is that of an Indiana nurse who suffered work injuries and was required to take a rest from work. The injury led to movement restrictions which made her incompatible with her previous position. The nurse showed interest in other positions that she could easily do but instead of considering her injury, the community hospital fired her.
Wage and Hour Disputes
This involves issues relating to unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations, wrongful demotion, and misclassification of employees to avoid paying them the benefits they deserve.
Employment lawyers can also help dispute contracts or prepare them during the hiring stage at a hospital. Their role covers helping draft, review, and negotiate aspects of the contract.
Some lawyers specialize in working with healthcare unions instead of individual employees. They work with the union and advise these organizations when negotiating with the hospital’s management. These lawyers may also assist with disputes arising out of collective bargaining agreements.
Mediation and Arbitration
Mediation and arbitration are usually recommended before filing a lawsuit. The hope is that every labor dispute is settled at this stage to prevent unnecessary expenses associated with pursuing justice and compensation in court. Employment lawyers can represent their clients throughout these processes.
7. Class Action Lawyers
Class action lawyers have the difficult job of representing numerous people in a lawsuit against a common defendant, in this case, a healthcare facility. The high number of plaintiffs helps share the overall cost of pursuing justice as well as provide a more believable case against the defendant.
Notably, in the context of the medical field, class action lawsuits don’t always have to be about neglect, medical malpractice, or abuse of patients. For example, a lawsuit was filed against Tampa General Hospital for alleged data breach.
According to the complaint, an unauthorized and unknown person accessed the hospital’s system and collected the personal information of roughly 1.2 million patients. Lawyers allege that the access to the hospital’s database was preventable and that the hospital made matters worse by failing to inform the victims.
Final Thoughts on Lawyers Who Sue Hospitals
To wrap it up, lawyers who sue hospitals or other healthcare institutions possess a unique set of skills, legal knowledge, medical know-how, and dedication to their clients.
If you look closely, these lawyers play an important role in holding medical professionals and healthcare facilities accountable for their actions or inactions that harm patients.