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A Guide to Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against a Hospital

A Guide to Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against a Hospital
Resources & Guides Med. Malpractice Nov. 6 5 min read

Most of the time, hospitals do everything they can to ensure a person doesn’t die. Though death is often unpreventable, in certain instances, negligence and malpractice by medical professionals lead to the unnecessary and tragic death of a patient. If a patient dies because of serious medical errors that were entirely preventable, their family may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

So what constitutes a wrongful death lawsuit, and how do you file one? Let’s go over some of the basics of wrongful death lawsuits. 

What Happens After a Patient Dies in a Hospital Setting?

After a patient passes away in a hospital, they are taken to the onsite morgue, and family and friends are notified that their loved one died. The family is then usually handed information regarding funeral homes and post-mortem processes such as cremation.

The time following a loved one’s death can be incredibly emotional and confusing. However, speaking with doctors about obtaining medical records and copies of treatments is still vital. These documents should help to clarify if any medical malpractice or wrongdoing contributed to your loved one’s death. If there is suspected foul play, often, the body will be held for further investigation.

When is a Hospital Responsible for Wrongful Death Cases?

Proving a wrongful death case involves establishing that a hospital, rather than an individual, is responsible for causing an unnecessary death takes a bit more effort than choosing to sue the individual. It requires proving that the hospital’s reckless actions contributed directly to your loved one’s death. Some examples of this would include instances such as the hospital not properly sanitizing their facility, leading to complications such as an infection, hiring underqualified staff members, not hiring enough staff members, or not correctly following patient safety guidelines. 

Furthermore, you must prove that whoever is responsible for the act of negligence directly contributed to the death of your loved one through their actions. This could include actions such as surgical mistakes, improper drug administration, labor or delivery errors, or misdiagnoses that directly led to their patient’s death. 

Lastly, you must also show evidence that the hospital itself permitted the negligence of its staff members to occur. This could include failing to administer medications at the correct time or dose, checking a patient’s vital signs, neglecting to observe bedsores, or failing to notify all staff members of additional symptoms or concerns.

When Can’t a Hospital be Sued?

A hospital may not be sued if the treating physician was hired as an independent contractor. A doctor who is an independent contractor is not technically an employee of the hospital and may only be operating out of the hospital to perform surgeries and see patients. In this case, the hospital could not be sued for the actions of a doctor who is technically not an employee of their facility.

However, there is an exception. If the hospital knows that the doctor has been operating negligently, they can still be sued in a wrongful death case. 

Who is Eligible to Sue for Wrongful Death?

Anyone who is a representative of the deceased’s estate can sue for wrongful death. This includes immediate family members such as spouses, parents, children, or other family members. Representatives of the departed’s estate can pursue compensation for the following types of damages:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral, Burial, or Cremation Costs
  • Lost Wages
  • Pain and Suffering

What Do I Need to Do To Prove My Wrongful Death Case?

First and foremost, it’s critical to understand that each state has a specific statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death suit. This means that you must file your case within a specific timeframe; otherwise, filing a claim will no longer be permissible.

Additionally, if you believe your family member passed away due to medical malpractice, you must prepare all documents and evidence as soon as possible. A skilled malpractice lawyer will make this process much easier to navigate, so it’s vital to seek legal help as early as possible. When preparing to file suit, begin preparing any documents that may indicate negligence or malpractice occurred, including things such as:

  • Medical records like x-rays, test results, scans, etc.
  • Any documents showing correspondence with the hospital
  • Medical bills
  • Prescriptions

Your lawyer will help to find eyewitnesses and medical professionals to testify against the responsible party. All evidence and testimony must prove that the hospital violated their standard duty of care and that this violation resulted in the death of your loved one, causing financial and emotional damages to occur.


Because medical professionals have extensive legal resources to protect them against malpractice claims, it can be challenging for an individual to pursue legal action against them without the help of an experienced malpractice attorney. Winning a hospital suit depends upon a skilled attorney who can successfully navigate a wrongful death case by finding ways to prove liability or use state liability laws in their favor. You will receive financial compensation for your losses if this evidence is successfully proven.

If you need help pursuing legal action against those who wronged your loved one, then teaming up with a legal professional will tremendously increase your rates of a successful outcome.

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