sue doctors or hospitalsRegrettably, some people can be admitted into a hospital for a non-life threatening ailment, and never make it out.  When a loved-one dies unexpectedly while admitted to a hospital, questions often arise as to whether they received appropriate medical care.  In those situations, consulting with a personal injury attorney, who has experience in handling wrongful death cases, can help you to determine whether you can sue doctors or hospitals for wrongful death.

The responsibility of doctors and hospitals

All health care providers, including physicians and medical facilities, are all expected to maintain the appropriate “standard of care,” when providing medical treatment to patients.  The term “standard of care” refers to “what a competent physician would have done under similar circumstances.”  Each state establishes its own standard of care for physicians who practice within that state.  Whenever a health care provider fails to follow the standard of care, and that failure results in injury, there may be a claim for medical negligence or malpractice.  This is what is commonly known as medical negligence or medical malpractice.  If the failure results in death, a wrongful death claim  may be pursued.

What is a wrongful death claim?

Wrongful death” is a type of personal injury claim that arises when someone dies as a result of the negligence or intentional conduct of another.  In a common personal injury claim, the injured party can file a lawsuit to recover for the harm or damages he or she suffered.  However, with wrongful death, the victim is now deceased and cannot bring a lawsuit.  Instead, the personal representative of the victim’s estate or the victim’s heirs, are allowed to bring the lawsuit.

Proving medical negligence in wrongful death cases          

Establishing medical negligence in wrongful death cases requires a showing that the negligent acts or omissions of a doctor or other health care professional caused the death of a patient.  This includes the negligent acts of hospital personnel, for which the hospital itself may be liable.  Medical negligence can result from errors in diagnosis, treatment or management of an illness or injury. In most cases, expert testimony is used to establish, both what the appropriate standard of care is, and that the person accused of negligence actually fell below that recognized standard.

How to sue doctors or hospitals for negligence

Proving medical negligence in court requires evidence of three elements: a duty, breach of that duty and proof that the breach caused the injuries claimed.  The most critical element is establishing the medical professional’s duty.  This is where the standard of care comes in.  Without a legally recognized duty, there is no liability.  Proof that the medical professional failed to adhere to the required duty, or more specifically, the recognized standard of care, then the claim will likely fail.  Finally, there must be evidence that the negligence actually caused the death.  To put it another way, you must show that the person died because of something the medical professional did, or failed to do.
If you have questions regarding wrongful death, or any other personal injury concerns in Missouri or Arkansas, please contact the Cottrell Law Office, either online or by calling us at (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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