Patients have the right to expect certain standards of care from doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. The hospital itself should ensure patient safety and high-quality care through sanitary equipment, working machines, and seamless communication. An act of negligence or malpractice at any point during the patient experience can lead to worsened outcomes and lower quality of life. When a hospital makes an error that harms or even kills a patient, the victim or his family should consider speaking with a qualified West Virginia medical malpractice attorney opening a lawsuit for medical malpractice.
Determine the Defendant
First, determine whether the hospital itself is the correct defendant. Just because you sustained a medical malpractice injury does not mean the hospital is liable for your damages. Many doctors are independent contractors, so you could sue the doctor rather than the hospital because the doctor is not an employee of the hospital. If, however, the doctor caused your injuries because of something the hospital did, such as provide poorly maintained equipment, you may be able to sue the hospital. Common reasons an individual could sue a hospital include:
- Negligent hiring, training, and retention practices.
- Hiring an incompetent or dangerous doctor.
- Negligence on the part of a hospital staff member.
- Improper facility sanitation.
- Unsafe premises.
- Lack of staff communication.
- Emergency room mistakes.
If a nurse, medical technician, emergency responder, or support staff member caused your injury, you can likely sue the hospital. In most cases, a hospital is vicariously liable for the actions of its employees. If a defective product caused your injuries, you may bring a claim against the product manufacturer, not the hospital. There are cases in which the injured party can name multiple defendants, such as the doctor and the hospital. Consult with an attorney to determine may be liable in your situation.
File Your Claim Within the Time Limit
One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to sue a hospital is waiting too long to pursue a claim. In West Virginia, you have two years from the date of the injury, or from the date you discover the injury, to bring a claim. If a reasonably diligent person would have noticed the injury sooner, the courts may use this date as the starting point instead. In no circumstances can a person bring a medical malpractice lawsuit more than 10 years from the date of the injury, even if it takes years to recognize that injury. This is a “statute of repose” that makes it impossible to sue an entity for a medical error after a decade has passed, regardless of the seriousness of the mistake.
If the hospital committed fraud, concealed information, or misrepresented facts about the injury, the statute of limitations timeline may be affected. Finally, if the hospital you’re suing is a government entity, such as a military hospital, you must abide by the deadlines for filing claims against the government. In these cases, you typically have 60 to 90 days to first file an administrative complaint against the defendant. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your specific timeframe for filing a claim against a hospital for medical malpractice, consult with an attorney. The sooner you speak to a lawyer, the better.
Work with an Attorney
Cases against hospitals can be complex. There are a number of rules, laws, and steps an injured party must take to bring this type of claim. The best way to protect your rights is to work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. A lawyer can investigate your incident, identify the defendant(s), and help you file the correct paperwork within the time limit. Suing a hospital for malpractice is easier with an personal injury attorney in West Virginia.