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Georgia medical malpractice Attorneys

Is the Hospital Liable for a Patient’s Wrongful Death?

Jun 12th, 2023  |  Legal Team  |  Firm News

Determining a hospital’s liability in a wrongful death case requires a careful examination of the circumstances, including the hospital’s duty of care, the actions of healthcare professionals involved, and the causal connection between the negligence and the patient’s death. While hospitals can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees, they may also face direct liability for their own negligent actions.

A Hospital’s Duty of Care

Hospitals have a duty of care toward their patients, which means they are responsible for providing a reasonable standard of care and taking necessary precautions to ensure patient safety. This duty encompasses a range of responsibilities, including properly hiring and training staff, maintaining a safe environment, implementing adequate protocols and procedures, and supervising medical professionals. Any failure to meet the expected standards can have serious consequences.

Vicarious Liability 

In many wrongful death cases, hospitals can be held liable for the actions of their employees under the principle of vicarious liability or respondeat superior. This legal doctrine holds employers responsible for the negligent acts or omissions of their employees when those actions occur within the scope of their employment. If a patient dies due to medical negligence or errors committed by a doctor, nurse, or any other healthcare professional while carrying out their duties at the hospital, the hospital can be held accountable for their actions.

Direct Liability

Apart from vicarious liability, hospitals may also be directly liable for a patient’s wrongful death if found to have been negligent in fulfilling its duty of care. Direct liability could arise from situations where the hospital fails to maintain adequate staffing levels, provides faulty equipment or facilities, or negligently implements policies and procedures that contribute to the patient’s death.

Proving Hospital Liability in a Wrongful Death Case

Establishing hospital liability in a wrongful death case can be a complex process. The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff (victim’s family), who must demonstrate the following elements to hold the hospital accountable:

  • Duty of care: The plaintiff must establish that the hospital owed a duty of care to the patient.
  • Breach of duty: It must be proven that the hospital breached its duty of care by either acting negligently or failing to act when it was required to do so.
  • Causation: The plaintiff must show that the hospital’s breach of duty directly caused or substantially contributed to the patient’s wrongful death.
  • Damages: Finally, the plaintiff must provide evidence of the damages suffered as a result of the patient’s death, such as loss of financial support, emotional distress, or funeral expenses.

Examples of When a Hospital Can Be Liable for a Wrongful Death

Here are a few examples of how hospitals can be held accountable for their actions or negligence in cases where a patient dies due to medical malpractice

Surgical Errors

If a surgeon performs the wrong procedure or operates on the wrong body part, resulting in the patient’s death, the hospital can be held accountable for inadequate preoperative protocols, lack of proper supervision, or failure to maintain accurate patient records.

Medication Errors

If a patient receives the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage due to negligence on the part of the hospital staff, which leads to the patient’s death, the hospital may be held responsible. In the event you or someone you know has received the wrong medication from a doctor or nurse, contact our medication error lawyers in Atlanta as receiving the wrong medication can be dangerous.

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

If a hospital’s medical professionals fail to order necessary tests, misinterpret test results, or neglect symptoms that should have alerted them to a critical condition, the hospital may be held liable for the patient’s death due to a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.

Inadequate Staffing or Supervision

If a patient dies due to a lack of qualified staff or the failure to adequately supervise medical personnel, the hospital may be held liable for negligent hiring, training, or supervision practices.

Equipment or Facility Failures

If a patient dies due to faulty or malfunctioning medical equipment or the hospital’s failure to maintain a safe environment, the hospital may be held liable for the wrongful death.

If you believe that a hospital’s negligence or medical malpractice has led to the wrongful death of a loved one, it is crucial to consult with an experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney. They can evaluate the details of the case, gather necessary evidence, and help you navigate the legal process to seek justice and compensation for your loss.