It’s not uncommon for a hospital to face negligence and medical malpractice charges simultaneously due to the actions of its employees. When hospital employees fail to uphold an acceptable standard of care or cause harm to patients due to negligence, injured victims may then file lawsuits against the hospital. A hospital can incur liability for negligence due to the actions of its employees, so it’s vital for everyone in Arizona to understand what hospital negligence is and how to identify it.
Hospitals incur liability for damages through standard negligence or medical malpractice. Standard negligence may apply to things like unmarked wet floors causing a slip and fall injury, poor grounds maintenance creating a hazard to patients or visitors, or other situations unrelated to the medical care of patients. When a plaintiff’s damages result from improper medical treatment, the hospital faces liability for medical malpractice.
Depending on the situation, a plaintiff will have a differing burden of proof for standard negligence claims and medical malpractice claims. A medical malpractice claim will require proof that an official doctor-patient relationship existed between the defendant and the plaintiff. Following that, the requirements for proving negligence involve the same three factors:
- The plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to act with reasonable care in the situation in question.
- The plaintiff must then prove that the defendant violated this duty in some way.
- Finally, the plaintiff must prove that the breach of duty directly resulted in the plaintiff’s damages. In both standard negligence claims and medical malpractice claims, a plaintiff has no claim if he or she suffered no harm or incurred no losses.
It’s also important to bear in mind that many doctors are not actually hospital employees but independent contractors. If a doctor in a medical malpractice claim has such an employment arrangement, the court will determine whether the doctor qualifies as a hospital employee and subsequently whether the hospital shares liability for the incident in question. In some situations, a judge may find a hospital guilty of corporate negligence for allowing an incompetent doctor to maintain staff privileges.
Damages in Hospital Negligence Cases
In both medical malpractice lawsuits and personal injury claims for standard negligence, injured plaintiffs can collect various types of compensation. This includes:
- Medical expenses. If a hospital’s negligence caused the plaintiff to incur further hospital bills, surgical costs, or require any other medical treatment, the plaintiff can sue to recover these expenses.
- Pain and suffering. Some injuries and illnesses are incredibly painful and traumatizing. A judge will typically hear expert witness testimony to assess the levels of physical pain and mental anguish endured by the patient due to the defendant’s negligence and award an appropriate figure.
- Lost income or lost earning capacity. If standard negligence or medical malpractice causes a plaintiff to miss work, the plaintiff can sue for the wages he or she would have reasonably expected to earn in that time. If the patient incurs injuries that prevent him or her from resuming work at all, the plaintiff can then sue for lost future earning capacity due to the hospital’s negligence.
- Property damage. In the event a hospital employee damages or destroys a plaintiff’s property, the plaintiff can sue for the cost of repairing or replacing those items.
- Punitive damages. In rare cases involving gross negligence or incompetence, a judge may award punitive damages to plaintiffs to discourage similar behavior in the future, from both the defendant and others. Punitive damages exist as a deterrent against intentionally harmful or egregiously negligent behaviors.
It may seem daunting to think about suing a hospital, and hiring a reliable attorney is one of the best steps you can take to strengthen your position. The attorneys of Bode & Collins represent clients across Arizona in a variety of cases, and we put the full extent of our experience to work for every one of our clients.
Reach out to our team to schedule a case evaluation. We’ll let you know if your hospital negligence case falls under general negligence or medical malpractice law and what to expect from a settlement or case award.