Suing a Hospital for Medical Malpractice? Here’s What You Need To Know

Individuals entrust hospitals and medical providers with our health each day. Unfortunately, that trust is shattered for some individuals when they are the victims of medical malpractice and negligence. If a hospital’s negligence has injured you or a family member, you may receive compensation for your injuries and damages under medical malpractice laws.

Malpractice occurs when a professional breaches their duty of care. The “professional” is a medical provider in a medical malpractice case. If you want to sue a hospital for malpractice, you need to be aware of these important facts about medical malpractice claims. 

Proving a Medical Malpractice Claim Against a Hospital

As the injured party, you must prove the grounds for medical malpractice to hold the hospital liable for damages. The legal grounds for hospital medical malpractice lawsuits are:

  • The hospital owed a duty of care to the patient to perform within a certain standard of care;
  • The hospital breached the duty of care through its actions or inactions;
  • The hospital’s conduct directly and proximately caused the patient’s injury or death; and,
  • The patient and/or their family suffered harm and damages because of the hospital’s medical negligence and conduct.

The medical standard of care differs based on the facts and circumstances of the case. Typically, the standard of care is defined as the level of skill, care, and treatment recognized and accepted by the medical community as appropriate and acceptable in the same or similar circumstances.

Medical Experts Are Required for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Some States

Most states require plaintiffs to provide medical expert testimony stating that there is a reasonable basis for their medical malpractice claim before they can file a lawsuit. The form and type of testimony can differ from state to state. Typically, the medical expert will define the standard of care the hospital should have used, given the facts of the case. The standard of care is what would have been acceptable in a similar situation. Then, the medical expert explains how the hospital breached the duty of care by failing to meet the accepted standard of care. 

In California, plaintiffs have to provide a certificate of merit along with their lawsuit. This certificate must list the expert’s qualifications (including licensure in California) and describe their training in the same field as the defendant-medical provider. They must explain the standard of care for that field, meaning the actions a reasonable medical provider would have taken under the circumstances that led to the plaintiff’s injuries.  They must also provide an opinion on how the defendant’s deviation from the standard of care caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

In states like Georgia, plaintiffs are required to file an expert affidavit to support their medical malpractice lawsuit. These affidavits require proof of the expert’s license, experience in the same field/speciality as the defendant medical-provider, and active practice of medicine or teaching for at least three out of the last five years. Unlike California, Georgia does not require that the experts be licensed in GA. This affidavit must state how the defendant deviated from the acceptable standard of care and caused the plaintiff’s injuries, including the factual basis for such an opinion. 

Is the Hospital Responsible for Malpractice by Staff Members?

Possibly. Hospitals can be held liable for the negligence committed by their employees under the theory of respondeat superior (vicarious liability). Because the hospital had a supervisory relationship with the employee, the hospital is liable for actional conduct by the employee (i.e., negligence and malpractice). 

Your Time to Sue a Hospital Is Limited by the Statute of Limitations 

All states have statutes of limitations that apply to medical malpractice claims. You must file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. The deadlines differ from state to state.

In California, the limitations period is three years. However, in Georgia, it is two years from the injury date (i.e., you have two years from when you were injured to sue a hospital for medical malpractice). However, there are exceptions.

Suppose you are unaware of the injury caused by malpractice until later. In that case, your deadline to file a lawsuit begins when you find out about the injury or should have reasonably known about the injury. 

However, Georgia limits the statute of repose to five years. The court can dismiss the lawsuit if it is not filed within five years of the medical malpractice or negligence. 

There is a different statute of limitations for claims related to leaving foreign objects inside of a patient, such as clamps, sponges, and other objects during surgery. Georgia law sets a one-year medical malpractice statute of limitations for these claims. The time begins when you discover a foreign object. 

Do I Need To Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer To Sue a Hospital?

Yes, you need to hire a lawyer for medical malpractice claims. These claims are complex personal injury cases. They have unique rules for proceeding with a lawsuit and require hiring one or more medical specialists and experts. 

If you suspect a doctor or hospital caused you harm or injury, it is best to speak with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Attorneys offer free consultations to find out if you have a medical malpractice case against a hospital without paying a consultation fee.

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