How to Sue a Hospital for a Wrongful Death

Hospital room with bed and sofa

Although most patients of cured of illnesses and injuries in hospitals, some succumb to their injuries or go to the hospital for palliative care to make their final days more comfortable. When someone passes away in a hospital or another medical setting, it can sometimes feel unavoidable if medical professionals did all they could to take care of that person. But, in other situations, a death in a hospital can feel tragic and preventable because a medical mistake seems to have caused it.

If your loved one died in the hospital and you think their death could have been avoided, then you might be able to hold the hospital legally accountable. How do you sue a hospital for a wrongful death, though? It begins with gathering your loved one’s medical records and heading to a local wrongful death attorney’s office for assistance.

What Happens When a Patient Dies in a Hospital?

When a patient dies in a hospital, the staff will arrange to bring their body to the onsite morgue if there is one. Family members will also be notified of the passing and be handed informational pamphlets about contacting funeral homes in the area.

During this time, it is important to speak with doctors and make arrangements to get copies of the deceased’s medical records and final treatments. Within these documents, there could be strong evidence of medical wrongdoing that led to or contributed to the death. If foul play is suspected, then the process of interring the deceased could be delayed for an investigation.

How Much Can You Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death?

The value of a wrongful death claim can vary due to numerous factors, which makes predicting the amount of compensation you can demand difficult.

Your wrongful death claim could seek damages related to:

  • Final medical care received by the deceased
  • Pain and suffering the deceased likely experienced due to the medical error
  • Income the deceased would have earned in life had the wrongful death never occurred
  • Emotional trauma you and your family have experienced
  • Lost value of day-to-day help provided by the deceased, like household chores
  • And much more

Importantly, states place limits on how much money can be rewarded for noneconomic damage in a medical malpractice claim or hospital death claim. Noneconomic damage is paid for pain, suffering, hardships, and other forms of damage that cannot be written and calculated easily on a bill or expense report. Economic damages cannot be capped, though.

How Long Do You Have to Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death?

Another factor to hospital death claims that changes from state to state is how much time you have to file a claim or lawsuit. The time limit is called a statute of limitations. Many states like South Carolina have a three-year statute of limitation for wrongful deaths that begin on the date of death, not on the date the deceased was diagnosed with a fatal injury or illness.

When the statute of limitations expires, the court will not accept any claim filed, regardless of evidence. There are extremely rare exceptions to the statute of limitations on hospital death lawsuits, but you are better off assuming they will not apply to your case.

It is Difficult to Sue a Hospital

Medical providers are infamous in legal circles for having all sorts of legal protections to shield them from lawsuits and liability, such as laws that cap how much noneconomic damage that they can be ordered to pay a plaintiff. It is difficult to sue a hospital while all of those protections are intact. Oftentimes, a successful hospital death claim depends on an experienced plaintiff’s attorney being able to prove liability inarguably or by finding intelligent ways to navigate a state’s liability laws.

If you need to file a hospital death claim, then you should plan on teaming up with a legal team that understands what you’re going through and what needs to be done to make the most of your case. Joye, Nappier, Risher, & Hardin LLC assists and represents wrongful death clients in South Carolina. Call (843) 357-6454 if you would like to speak to an attorney about your case.

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