Can You Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death?

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When a wrongful death occurs in a hospital setting, you may be able to sue for compensation. A claim may be based on medical malpractice or ordinary negligence, depending on the actions that caused the death.

Under South Carolina law, you have between two to three years to file your claim against a hospital, depending on where the claim arose.

Suing a Hospital for Wrongful Death

Hospitals can be sued for wrongful death in South Carolina. Here are key things to know:

  • Classification as medical malpractice or negligence impacts the time limit for filing a claim.
  • The hospital may be liable for the negligent actions of its staff.
  • It’s important to name the correct entity as the defendant.
  • A claim starts with a Notice of Intent or a complaint.
  • You may have legal representation and should have an attorney before you proceed.

At Bobby Jones Law, we handle wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals. If you have lost a loved one, please contact us for a case review.

Hospital Medical Malpractice vs. Wrongful Death and Why it Matters

Medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider, by act or omission, fails to do what a reasonably prudent professional would do in the same or similar circumstances.

A wrongful death occurs when the neglect or wrongful act of another causes a death. When a death occurs because of medical malpractice, the time limit to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice applies.

In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim must be brought within three years of the death of the person. An exception to this timeframe, the discovery rule, extends the limitations period to within three years after the cause of action is known, or should be known, through reasonable diligence.

However, when a claim involves medical malpractice, the most a claim can be extended is another three years, or six years total, from the date of occurrence.

A wrongful death that occurs in a medical setting may be a negligence claim or a medical malpractice wrongful death claim. It depends on whether the death was caused by a medical professional performing healthcare services. (See Williams v. Quest Diagnostics, 353 F. Supp. 3d 432 (D.S.C. 2018)).

Regardless, it’s important to seek legal help as soon as possible. A lawyer can preserve the evidence in your case and work quickly to meet deadlines.

Note: Hospitals are often owned by the government. If so, the South Carolina Tort Claims Act may limit the time for a claim to two years. The limit may be extended to three years by filing a verified claim.

Hospital Liability for Staff in Wrongful Death

  • A hospital’s doctors, physician’s assistants, nurses, and other professionals may be responsible for malpractice.
  • Hospital liability for ordinary negligence of employees may apply to all services, including prevention of infection, facility maintenance, food service, and other tasks that are not directly medical.
  • Direct liability may apply to the hospital for negligent hiring, supervision, and staff retention.
  • You may assert all claims that may apply in your case.

A hospital carries out its work through the acts of its employees or agents. Through the legal concept of respondeat superior, a hospital is liable for the actions of its employees carried out in the scope of their employment. (See Sams v. Arthur et al, 135 S.C. 123, 133 S.E. 205 (S.C. 1926)).

This concept applies to wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals. You may also hear the term vicarious liability to hold an employer responsible for the actions of its workers. (Scibek v. Gilbert, 2:20-cv-2638-DCN (D.S.C. Apr. 14, 2022)).

Who to File a Hospital Wrongful Death Claim Against

The party responsible for wrongful death should be named as the defendant in the legal claim. To name the hospital in a suit for wrongful death, it’s important that the person who performs medical services is an employee of the hospital.

Sometimes, a doctor may visit a patient in the hospital or perform a procedure there without being a hospital employee. In that event, it’s important to determine the employer of the party who provided the services.

Knowing who to file a wrongful death claim against begins by determining how the death occurred and whether it is the result of negligence or medical malpractice. Then, you determine the responsible party and identify their employer. It may be appropriate to name multiple parties in an action for wrongful death.

Hospital Exceptions to the Tort Claims Act Cap

While the South Carolina Tort Claims Act caps damages in many medical malpractice wrongful death claims, there are important exceptions that may apply to a hospital. For example, if the services are rendered in a private capacity, or the professional is not acting in the scope of their public employment, the Tort Claims Act caps do not apply.

In addition, if the employee acts with fraud, malice, an intent to harm, or a crime involving moral turpitude, state law clarifies that they are not protected from liability by the Tort Claims Act. Lawyer Bobby Jones can provide a case review, exploring exceptions to damages caps that may apply to a hospital.

Multiple occurrences under the Tort Claims Act

South Carolina law defines an “occurrence” as the flow of events which unfold from a single act of negligence. There can be multiple, distinct acts of negligence, and each are under the plaintiff’s burden of proof to establish in court. While each occurrence of negligence is subject to the same damage cap, plaintiffs may recover up to that amount for each negligent act that a jury finds.

Exceptions to Damage Caps for Charities

Similarly, the damage caps for each occurrence apply to wrongful death claims against charitable healthcare providers, but there are other important exceptions.

An employee is individually liable if they act with gross negligence, with recklessness, or willfully. Examples may include operating on the wrong body part or leaving a foreign object in the body.

It depends on the exact circumstances – what may be an exception to the wrongful death damages caps for charities in one circumstance may not qualify in another situation. As your representative, Bobby Jones can determine if an exception applies and what you might receive for your case.

How to Start a Hospital Wrongful Death Claim

A medical malpractice claim begins with a Notice of Intent to File Suit. Even when a claim is a wrongful death claim, when it is the result of medical malpractice, the case starts with a Notice of Intent to File Suit.

The Notice must name all defendants. It must summarize the facts, include an expert witness affidavit, and required standard interrogatories or disclosures.

A claim based on ordinary negligence, where the death was not the result of medical services, starts with a summons and complaint filed in court. A wrongful death claim is brought by or in the name of the victim’s executor or administrator.

Starting a hospital wrongful death claim begins with investigating what happened and who is responsible. Then, you determine who to name in the claim and the appropriate way to proceed.

Lawyer Robert “Bobby” Jones understands the complex steps for suing a hospital for wrongful death. You may pursue a wrongful death hospital settlement or litigate your case through trial.

Contact a Lawyer About Suing a Hospital for a Wrongful Death

When you need a lawyer to sue a hospital for wrongful death, contact Bobby Jones Law. We are currently taking new cases throughout South Carolina. We investigate when the hospital is liable for wrongful death, how to prove your case, and who to file against. We take all the steps needed to pursue your claim.

If you have lost a loved one, we understand your grief and will work tirelessly to represent your interests as our client. See if you may sue a hospital for wrongful death. Get legal help today by contacting us online or by phone.

The team at Bobby Jones Law LLC works tirelessly for the injured in South Carolina. His achievements include:
  • More than $60 million collected for our clients
  • Multiple recoveries exceeding $1 million, including an eight-figure settlement
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We’re humbled to be considered one of the top firms in the Upstate and invite you to learn what sets our award-winning legal services apart. Call or request a consultation online.
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