Patients go to hospitals expecting the staff to provide them with the best care possible. In many cases, patients put their lives in doctors’ hands.
Sometimes, patients don’t get the results they want — an inoperable condition, a procedure that had a chance of working but didn’t, or an unexpected but correct diagnosis. These are unfortunate circumstances, but they usually aren’t negligence if the staff provides the proper care for the situation.
What Is Hospital Negligence?
In other cases, patients suffer harm due to medical errors. Research shows that high error rates with serious consequences are most likely to happen in operating rooms, emergency departments and intensive care units — all of which are in hospitals.
The most recent study on deaths from hospital errors estimates that they are the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. However, it isn’t easy to get accurate estimates. Healthcare workers and hospitals are often reluctant to record mistakes. They may fear retribution, a bad reputation or losing their jobs.
Therefore, the total number of medical error-related deaths may be even higher — and, of course, there is no way to know since no one has records of unreported errors.
Common Medical Errors
Some errors are more prevalent than others, including:
- Misdiagnosis: Making an incorrect diagnosis or failing to diagnose an existing problem
- Delayed diagnosis: Diagnosing symptoms after missing them earlier, giving them a chance to get worse
- Hospital infections: Hospital-acquired infections affect 1.7 million people annually
- Surgical errors: Puncturing an organ, leaving an instrument behind, operating on the wrong area, etc.
- Medication errors: Failing to obtain a prescription history or giving a patient the wrong dose
Duty of Care
Hospital healthcare workers owe a duty of care to their patients. Duty of care is the responsibility to maintain the safety, health and well-being of others. Doctors, nurses, aides, assistants and other hospital employees should:
- Provide treatment to a patient using all the judgment and expertise of their profession, and
- Do nothing to harm a patient because of negligence or recklessness.
Healthcare providers owe their patients the duty of care in:
- Deciding whether to treat them
- Deciding what treatment to give
- The administration of the treatment
The Difference Between Negligence and Malpractice
While malpractice and negligence seem to be two terms describing the same situation, they are different. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between them because they can overlap.
Malpractice happens when healthcare workers know the possible consequences before making a mistake that harms the patient. They might not have followed proper protocols or directives.
Negligence happens when healthcare workers unknowingly make a mistake by performing an action or making a decision that harms the patient.
Examples of Malpractice
A malpractice claim may arise from circumstances such as:
- Overprescribing medication while knowing the risks
- Rushing to surgery and failing to sterilize equipment, which leads to hospital infections
- Failing to run diagnostic tests because the practitioner wants to go home
Examples of Negligence
A negligence claim may arise from situations such as:
- Prescribing medication while forgetting to check for dangerous drug interactions
- Failing to provide follow-up instructions after a surgery
- Neglecting to run diagnostic tests because the doctor did not know about them
How Can a Hospital Negligence Lawyer Help?
If you or a loved one have suffered injury or death after a hospital visit, you may wonder if you have a claim.
It’s not always easy for a patient to tell. Medical negligence or malpractice claims can take a high level of expertise to determine the hospital staff’s liability. Generally, the injured patient must prove four elements to establish negligence:
- The hospital staff owed the patient a professional duty of care.
- The staff committed a breach of duty.
- The breach harmed the patient.
- The patient has injuries as a result.
The most common way to determine negligence is to decide if a reasonable physician or healthcare worker would have done the same thing in a similar situation. Expert witnesses or healthcare workers may provide testimony for comparison. If a reasonable provider had made a different decision, it might establish a negligence case.
Utah Laws for Filing a Hospital Lawsuit
In Utah, the patient must do some paperwork before filing a lawsuit.
The patient must give each healthcare provider 90 days’ prior notice of intent. It must contain several details, including:
- A statement of the claim’s nature
- A list of everyone involved
- The place, time and date of the event
- The claim’s circumstances
- The nature of the alleged injuries and damages
- The specific allegations of misconduct
Also, the patient must request a prelitigation panel of review with Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. The patient must wait for the panel’s decision before filing a claim.
Utah Statute of Limitations
Medical malpractice lawsuits in Utah have a statute of limitations. If you attempt to file after the date has passed, the hospital will probably ask the courts to dismiss your case. The court will likely grant the request, and you won’t be able to file a suit.
A patient has two years after discovering the injury to file a claim. If you don’t realize the damage immediately, the statute of limitations begins when a person using reasonable diligence would have discovered it. This requirement means that you might not have a full two years to file if it is determined you could have learned about the injury sooner.
Utah’s statute of repose states that the patient cannot take any action after four years have passed. However, there are two exceptions:
- The provider committed fraud to conceal the wrongdoing.
- The provider left a foreign object in the patient’s body.
After discovering either of these circumstances, the patient has one year to file a lawsuit.
Utah has a cap of $450,000 on the amount awarded for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, losing the enjoyment of life, and emotional distress. Because of the cap, a patient can benefit from hiring a hospital negligence lawyer. A lawyer can help the patient recover as many non-economic damages as possible.
Utah does not have a cap on money for economic damages. They can include:
- Past and future medical treatment costs
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost wages for work missed
- Other losses brought up in the lawsuit
How a Hospital Negligence Lawyer Can Assist You
When you are injured after a hospital visit, the thought of filing paperwork can be overwhelming. Not only do you have to ensure you file the correct paperwork with the right people, you have a limited time to do so.
Hospital negligence lawyers have experience in dealing with many types of medical claims. They understand what paperwork the law requires, how to do it, and when and where to file it.
You need to focus on your recovery after a hospital injury. An attorney can take care of the tedious details of your negligence case while you rehabilitate.
Call Siegfried and Jensen When You Need a Hospital Negligence Lawyer
The injury attorneys at Siegfried and Jensen have the experience you need to handle your hospital negligence case. Give us a call if you or a loved one has suffered an injury during a hospital visit. We can provide more information about your possible claim. There’s no pressure to act, and our consultation is free.