How to Sue – Hospital
Attorney Kimberly Beck
Step One: Figure Out if You Should Sue Anyone
Before you start to think about how to sue a hospital, you should decide whether you should sue the hospital. You can only successfully sue doctors, hospitals, dentists, or nurses for “professional negligence” if whatever they did “fell below the applicable standard of care.” In other words, you cannot win a lawsuit just because you didn’t get a good outcome. For example, let us say a loved one dies of cancer but the doctor who treated your loved one did everything right. In that situation you will not win a lawsuit against that doctor just because you got a bad outcome – your loved one died.
Similarly, if the doctor had to choose between two reasonable paths and just chose the wrong path to take, you will not win the lawsuit. For example, let us say your doctor has two equally reasonable paths. The first option is for the doctor to do a cesarian immediately. The second choice is to wait and gather more information before deciding whether to do a cesarian. If both of those options were equally reasonable, the decision to wait won’t be damning to the doctor. Instead, you will only be able to win a lawsuit against the doctor if the doctor’s behavior is unreasonable, meaning that it fell below the “applicable standard of care.” Usually, you will need to hire another doctor to tell you whether the doctor’s behavior fell below the “applicable standard of care.”
Step Two: Even if You Decide You Should Sue Someone, Decide Whether it Should Be the Hospital
The three most common reasons why you would sue a hospital are: (1) the hospital employs a doctor who made a mistake, (2) other hospital employees made a mistake, or (3) the hospital itself made a mistake through its policies or standard procedures.
To the surprise of most people, a doctor may be working at a hospital without working for the hospital. For instance, most emergency room doctors are contractors, meaning they do not work for the hospital. In this situation, you might be able to win a lawsuit against the doctor, but not against the hospital.
Of course, the doctor is not the only person at the hospital who can make a mistake that causes you to suffer a terrible injury. Usually, the nurses who work at a hospital work for the hospital. If a nurse who is employed by the hospital makes a mistake, like the nurse continues to give a diabetic patient a high sugar diet, which causes seizures, you probably have a case against the nurse and the hospital.
Additionally, if the hospital has policies that fail to keep you as a patient safe, you may have a successful case against the hospital. By way of example, let us assume that the hospital policy requires hospital personnel to verify the identity of the patient only one time between the time the specialist determines that the patient requires surgery and the time the patient actually has the surgery.
Step Three: Now that You Decided to Sue the Hospital, Let us Discuss How to Sue a Hospital
First, Prepare to Sue.
You need to find the hospital’s correct name. You may be able to find the right name through a google search. However, the safer course is to review the secretary of state business name records. You can probably accomplish this by first googling “secretary of state [state name] business name.” Then, follow the prompts.
In addition to knowing how to sue a hospital, you will need to know who to serve. While you are reviewing the secretary of state website to get the proper business name, you will also want to find out to whom you need to “serve” the complaint. You will need to review the business filings.
Next, you will need to decide whether there are any special requirements in your state to suing a hospital. In Ohio, for instance, if the hospital is owned by the state, you will need to sue in the Court of Claims. If the hospital is not owned by the state, you will need to sue in Municipal Court or, more likely, the Court of Common Pleas.
Additionally, in Ohio, you have to file an affidavit of merit with any complaint that alleges a medical malpractice. If you don’t that is a basis to dismiss.
Second, Write the Complaint.
Start the complaint with a “case caption” which states the court, and the names and addresses of the parties. I will look something like this:
When writing the complaint, make sure every allegation has its own separately numbered paragraph. The first several paragraphs should explain factually what happened.
In the next several paragraphs, explain why that amounts to medical malpractice or professional negligence.
Sign the complaint.
Third, File the Complaint with the Correct Court.
Once you have filed the complaint, you have sued the hospital.
This post has briefly summarized technically how to sue a hospital by (1) determining if you have a case, (2) if you have a case, determining if you have a case against the hospital, and (3) how to draft and file a complaint. Notably, every jurisdiction has its own requirements. This is just a brief overview. Before filing a complaint against a hospital, check the rules in your specific jurisdiction and make sure you comply.
Click here to find out more information about Beck Law Center’s medical malpractice cases. If you are on Medicare or Medicaid, click here to find out how winning a lawsuit could affect your benefits.
Attorney Kimberly Beck
Attorney Kim Beck is the managing member of Beck Law Center, located in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has 15 years of experience as an attorney, mostly on the defense. She now represents plaintiffs in personal injury cases involving a variety of injuries caused by defecting drugs/ pharmaceuticals, medical malpractice, and other series accidents. If you would like more information about her background and experience, please review her profile page.
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