Though surgeries and medical treatments come with inherent risks, it’s still a shock if a loved one dies in the care of qualified medical professionals.
In Florida, the death of a loved one entrusted to the care of medical professionals and entities can be met with a wrongful death claim. But just how liable are entities like hospitals in wrongful death cases?
What is wrongful death?
In Florida, a wrongful death is a death caused by another person or entity’s negligence, default, breach of contract or warranty, or a wrongful act.
There are several types of wrongful death claims. The type most relevant to hospital liability is medical malpractice and negligence.
What constitutes medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is what happens when an injury or death is caused by a medical provider, which can be a health care practitioner or entity.
Common types of medical malpractice include wrong or delayed diagnoses, medication errors, and surgical errors.
Liability of Healthcare Facilities and Hospitals
According to state law, hospitals are responsible for comprehensive risk management and staff competence.
How does this factor into suing a hospital for wrongful death? Hospitals are liable for the damages that ensue when these duties aren’t met. This means they are liable for instances of personnel or provider negligence or malpractice that causes injury or death when that personnel or provider is an employee of the hospital.
The potential for hospital liability wanes if the negligent provider wasn’t a hospital employee.
Hospitals are also required to have the following:
- Written procedures for the selection of staff members
- Ongoing and routine review of medical care provided by every staff member
- Supervision of medical staff and hospital personnel that ensures the review and risk management processes are executed correctly
This isn’t a comprehensive list of hospital responsibilities. A Florida wrongful death attorney will let you know the options available to you when it comes to suing a hospital for wrongful death.
State law says the ability for a hospital to be held liable for a death changes if the death happened during emergency treatment or care. But the limited liability granted by the above statement is undermined if the death results “from providing, or failing to provide, medical care or treatment under circumstances demonstrating a reckless disregard for the consequences so as to affect the life or health of another.”
In such a case, a valid wrongful death claim arises.
Can I file a wrongful death claim?
In general, immediate family can seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Depending on the age of the decedent, eligible survivors may include the decedent’s spouse, minor children, parents, and any blood or adoptive immediate relatives who were wholly or partially dependent on the deceased.
However, there are some cases in which Florida law creates strict limits on who is legally considered a “survivor” with the right to file a wrongful death claim.
In instances in which the deceased is at least 25 years old, unmarried, and without children, their relatives cannot sue for wrongful death. The same is true if the deceased was an unmarried or widowed person with children who are at least 25 years old.
In addition, the law specifies that children born out of wedlock can sue for the wrongful death of their mother, but they cannot sue for the wrongful death of their father unless the father “recognized a responsibility for the child’s support.”
There are exceptions to these limitations, such as in cases in which there are few, if any, minor or immediate surviving relatives of the decedent. Consult with a Florida wrongful death attorney to hear what options are available to you. Contact Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today for a risk-free consultation.
How to Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death
In the aftermath of a loved one’s unexpected death during surgery or other treatment at a hospital, taking legal action to hold those involved responsible may seem overwhelming. However, Florida law limits how long you have to seek compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one; You have only two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim, though there are rare exceptions to this limit.
Working with the experienced Florida wrongful death attorneys at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath will let you grieve without having to worry about legal complexities. Contact us today for a free wrongful death case consultation.