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When is the Hospital Responsible for a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death claims arise in various ways in San Bernardino and throughout the state of California, including incidents of medical malpractice. Typically, we think of holding medical professionals individually responsible for malpractice, but there may be circumstances where a hospital could also be responsible for a wrongful death. It is crucial to determine all possible liable parties for a medical malpractice wrongful death claim before proceeding forward with a civil lawsuit.

Do Wrongful Death Laws Allow Lawsuit Against a Hospital?

When we examine California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, we can see wrongful death claims can arise when a person loses their life due to the “wrongful act or neglect of another” individual, company, or entity. There is nothing in California’s wrongful death laws that specify that wrongful death claims can only be filed against other people. Companies and agencies can certainly hold liability for the death of another, and they can also face wrongful death claims.

Hospitals can face wrongful death claims after medical malpractice occurs. But under what circumstances would the hospital be responsible for a death as opposed to the medical professional(s) whose actions led to the death?

A hospital can be found responsible for a patient’s death in a few ways, and we typically see that these claims arise due to the following:

  • The negligence of physicians, surgeons, nurses, or other healthcare providers employed by the hospital.
  • The hospital’s own negligence in the hiring or supervising of their employees, maintaining or repairing equipment, and overseeing medical care at the facility.

Hospitals, like any other employer, have a responsibility to ensure that they employ individuals capable of performing their job. In a medical facility, this is particularly important. All medical professionals are required to uphold a certain standard of care. If a hospital employs a medical professional who failed to uphold the standard of care required of them, it is possible for the hospital to be held vicariously liable for the actions of the employee.

Additionally, hospitals should always maintain an appropriate supervisory environment. This includes hiring qualified personnel and ensuring adequate supervision of these employees at all times. Hospitals must always maintain the equipment used by medical professionals, and failing to do so could result in patient harm.

One complication in these situations is the fact that many medical professionals act as independent contractors inside of a hospital. We find that the hospital will generally not be legally liable for the negligence of independent contractor medical professionals. However, if a hospital knew about repeated negligent actions of an independent contractor medical professional and failed to take steps to remedy the situation, they could ultimately be held liable if that medical professional causes harm to a patient.

Work With an Attorney

If you have lost a loved one as a result of the careless or negligent actions of a medical professional or medical facility, reach out to an attorney immediately. Medical malpractice claims are complicated, and it may be necessary to file a lawsuit against multiple individuals, companies, or agencies in order to obtain the compensation you are entitled to for the loss of your loved one. A skilled San Bernardino wrongful death lawyer who has experience with medical malpractice claims can help you through this process. An attorney will gather the evidence needed to prove liability, handle all communication with other parties involved, and vigorously negotiate to recover compensation on your behalf.