Can You Sue A Hospital For Wrongful Death?

Can You Sue A Hospital For Wrongful Death?
August 1, 2023
Medical Malpractice

Can You Sue A Hospital For Wrongful Death?

As attorneys based in Tallahassee, we specialize in handling complex medical malpractice cases, including wrongful death lawsuits. Today, we will explore a question often asked by potential clients: Can you sue a hospital for wrongful death?

The answer, in short, is yes. You can indeed sue a hospital for wrongful death. However, it's crucial to understand that these cases are often intricate and require expert legal assistance to navigate.

What is a Wrongful Death?

Can You Sue A Hospital For Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death in a hospital refers to a situation where a patient dies as a result of the negligent or wrongful actions of the hospital, its staff, or associated medical professionals. These actions could include mistakes in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management, which do not align with the recognized standards of healthcare.

Here are some examples of situations that could potentially result in a wrongful death in a hospital:

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

If a serious condition is not diagnosed correctly or in a timely manner, a patient could miss out on critical treatment that could have potentially saved their life.

Medication Errors

Medication errors can occur if a patient is given the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, or a medication they are allergic to, leading to severe adverse reactions or even death.

Surgical Errors

If a surgeon makes a mistake during an operation, such as operating on the wrong body part, performing an unnecessary surgery, or leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient, it could result in fatal complications.

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesiologists play a crucial role in ensuring patient safety during surgical procedures. A small miscalculation or error in administering anesthesia can lead to serious harm, including brain damage and death.

Negligent Care

If a patient does not receive the necessary attention or care they need, such as timely responses to alarms or changes in their condition, or proper monitoring after a procedure, it can lead to serious harm or death.

Failure to Obtain Informed Consent

Medical professionals are obligated to inform patients about the potential risks and benefits of a proposed treatment or procedure. If a patient suffers harm or death from a treatment or procedure for which they were not fully informed, it could potentially lead to a wrongful death claim.

Possible Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

When suing a hospital for wrongful death, the potential recoverable damages often fall into two broad categories: economic and non-economic damages. Some states may also allow for punitive damages in certain circumstances. The exact type and amount of damages that can be recovered depend on the specific laws of the state where the lawsuit is filed.

Here's a general breakdown of the types of damages that may be recoverable in a wrongful death case:

Economic Damages

These are quantifiable monetary losses resulting from the death. They may include:

Medical Costs

These cover the deceased's medical expenses related to the negligence that led to their death, such as

  • emergency care
  • hospitalization
  • surgery
  • medication, etc.

Funeral and Burial Costs

Reasonable funeral and burial expenses can be recovered.

Loss of Income and Benefits

This covers the amount of money the deceased would likely have earned in the future if they had lived, including wages, benefits, and other earnings.

Non-Economic Damages

These damages compensate for non-monetary losses, which are often subjective and harder to quantify:

Pain and Suffering

This includes the pain and suffering the deceased endured from the time of the negligent act until their death.

Loss of Consortium, Companionship, Care, or Guidance

Surviving spouses, children, or parents may be compensated for the loss of the deceased's companionship and emotional support.

Emotional Distress

Family members may be compensated for their own emotional distress resulting from their loved one's death.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, if the conduct of the hospital was especially egregious, reckless, or malicious, punitive damages may be awarded. These are not meant to compensate the plaintiff, but rather to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future.

Holding a Hospital Liable

For a hospital to be held liable, it must be proven that negligence occurred within their duty of care. This negligence could be an act or omission that deviates from the standard care expected of a medical professional in similar circumstances. Essentially, it must be established that the hospital's negligence was a direct cause of the wrongful death.

It’s important to note that not all medical mistakes can form the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit. For instance, a challenging disease diagnosis or treatment, even if ultimately unsuccessful, doesn't necessarily imply negligence or malpractice.

Hospital Employees and Independent Contractors

A hospital can be held responsible for the actions of its employees, which includes everyone from doctors and nurses to technicians and administrative staff. If an employee causes harm or death to a patient due to negligence while performing job-related duties, the hospital can be held liable.

However, many doctors are not employees but independent contractors affiliated with the hospital. In such cases, the hospital may not be liable for the doctor's negligence unless the hospital was negligent in granting privileges to an incompetent or dangerous doctor.

How To Know You Need To File a Wrongful Death Case Against a Hospital

Deciding to file a wrongful death case against a hospital can be a challenging and emotional decision. Here are some general guidelines that might indicate you need to consider such a legal action:

Proof of Negligence

You must have reason to believe that the death of your loved one was the result of negligence or misconduct by a healthcare provider associated with the hospital. This could include

  • failure to diagnose
  • incorrect treatment
  • surgical mistakes
  • medication errors
  • and other similar acts of negligence.

Direct Cause

You need to show that the negligence or misconduct was a direct cause of the patient's death. It's not sufficient to show that the healthcare provider was negligent; you must prove that the negligence directly led to the death of the patient.

Existence of Damages

Damages in a wrongful death case can include:

  • medical expenses
  • funeral and burial expenses
  • loss of income and benefits
  • pain and suffering
  • and loss of companionship.

If you can show that you have suffered these types of damages as a result of the wrongful death, you might have a valid case.

Statute of Limitations

Every state has a specific time limit, known as the statute of limitations, for filing a wrongful death claim. In Florida, for example, the general rule is that a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of death. If the statute of limitations has expired, you might not be able to file a lawsuit.

Legal Standing

Typically, the personal representative of the deceased person's estate, or close relatives like spouses, children, or parents, have the legal standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Remember, it's very important to consult with a skilled and experienced medical malpractice attorney if you believe you have a wrongful death claim against a hospital. Every case is unique, and the specific laws can vary from state to state. An attorney can review the facts of your case, provide you with legal advice tailored to your situation, and guide you through the legal process.

Contact Hinkle Law Firm

As you can see, suing a hospital for wrongful death involves a complex web of legal factors and considerations. If you believe your loved one was a victim of wrongful death due to hospital negligence, you should consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.


1. Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

According to the Florida Wrongful Death Act, the personal representative of the deceased person's estate must file the wrongful death claim. This representative can be named in the deceased person's will or estate plan. If no representative has been named, the court will appoint one. The claim is filed on behalf of the deceased person's estate and any surviving family members.

2. Which family members can recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

The following family members may be eligible to recover damages: the deceased's spouse, children, and parents, and any blood relative or adoptive sibling who was partly or wholly dependent on the deceased for support or services.

3. What is the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in Florida?

The general rule in Florida is that a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of death. However, there may be exceptions or extensions in certain situations, so it's important to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the deadline applicable to your specific case.

4. What types of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

The damages that may be recovered in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit can include: medical and funeral expenses, loss of the deceased's expected earnings, loss of benefits, loss of inheritance, value of services the deceased provided, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship and protection. The specific damages will depend on the relationship between the deceased and the surviving family member(s).

5. Can punitive damages be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

Yes, in certain circumstances. Florida law allows for punitive damages in wrongful death cases if it can be proven that the defendant's actions were intentional, grossly negligent, or demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life.

6. Can a hospital be sued for wrongful death in Florida?

Yes, a hospital can be sued for wrongful death in Florida if it can be proven that the hospital's negligence or wrongdoing was a direct cause of the patient's death. This could involve negligence on the part of the hospital's employees, or possibly an independent contractor affiliated with the hospital.

Have you been personally injured or while receiving healthcare?

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