Losing a loved one can be very hard to accept, and it’s even harder when it’s a wrongful death. While no amount of money can replace a human life, you have the option of suing a hospital for wrongful death and claiming damages.
Proving negligence is complicated and requires specialized legal expertise to best present your case. If you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligence of a physician or hospital, a wrongful death lawyer can help you claim damages.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is the loss of life caused by a negligent act, such as by a practitioner at a healthcare facility.
Negligence in a wrongful death claim implies that the person responsible failed to uphold the standards of reasonable care and their actions directly caused or contributed to the victim’s loss of life. The patient’s death, in this case, could have been avoided were it not for the defendant’s actions.
Hospitals and health care practitioners are tasked with great responsibility—caring for human lives. As such, healthcare professionals take an oath to uphold the value of human life for the entirety of their careers.
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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Alabama?
According to Alabama law, only a person’s executor or personal representative can file a wrongful death claim. Since the true victim of the offense is unable to represent themselves, the court deems that whoever the deceased appointed as their estate’s executor upon their demise has the right to represent their wishes.
In cases where the deceased did not appoint an executor, the Alabama probate court will appoint one for them, with first priority granted to the spouse. According to Alabama child injury laws, if the victim was a minor, the court gives priority to the child’s parents.
When Is a Hospital Liable for Wrongful Death?
A hospital is responsible for the care and safety of all persons within the premises, including employees, visitors, and patients. Whether the death occurred on or off site, an individual can sue a hospital for wrongful death if the cause of death was due to one of the following.
A hospital may be deemed to be negligent in a wrongful death case under the following circumstances:
- Improper patient safety protocols
- Hiring incompetent physicians/nurses
- Failure to fire incompetent physicians/nurses
A hospital can be sued for a doctor’s negligence if the doctor was an employee of the hospital at the time of the incident. Negligent actions by a doctor that may cause wrongful death include the following:
- Medical malpractice—performing procedures or any practices that are outside standard acceptable practices within the profession
- A misdiagnosis
- A surgical error or unnecessary surgery
- Prescribing the wrong medication
A hospital can be sued for a nurse’s negligence if the nurse was an employee at the hospital at the time of the incident. Nurse malpractice that can result in wrongful death includes instances where the nurse:
- Committed an error in recording patient information, leading to a series of events that contributed to the patient’s death (e.g., omitting a medication allergy)
- Administered the wrong medication contrary to what was prescribed by the doctor
- Failed to examine a patient, thereby missing important warning signs
- Missed vital issues during an examination
- Failed to report unusual symptoms or serious patient complaints to the doctor
In all the above cases, the result of the negligent act must be a patient’s death for there to be a valid wrongful death case.
How to Prove Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim Against a Hospital in Alabama
Proving negligence is the premise upon which all wrongful death claims are built on. Without proof of negligence, there is no case. As with all negligence cases, the parameters of duty, breach, causation, and damages must be met to prove negligence.
In the case of wrongful death, you can prove negligence by showing the following:
- Duty of care: The hospital was responsible for caring for the deceased.
- Breach of duty: The duty of care was breached either by the hospital or its employee(s).
- A breach of duty resulted in death: The patient’s death was a result of the hospital’s breach of duty and could have otherwise been avoided.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in the state of Alabama is two years. The clock starts ticking from the moment the victim is pronounced dead. Filing a claim after the stipulated two years may bar you from ever pursuing any legal action in the case and from receiving compensation.
Certain circumstances may cause deadline changes and affect the filing of your wrongful death claim. An experienced wrongful death attorney can evaluate your case and provide advice on the best course of action.
Compensation for Wrongful Death
In most states across the US, compensation in a wrongful death claim is calculated based on damages to the victim. In the state of Alabama, the courts award compensation relative to punitive damages. What this means is the courts evaluate the level of negligence exhibited by the defendant and impose monetary value on it.
Contact an Alabama Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Pursuing a wrongful death claim against a hospital is challenging. In certain cases, the hospital may deflect the damages to the at-fault physician or nurse. If their insurance limit is low, that may put you at a disadvantage.
Our skilled and experienced wrongful death attorneys at Morris Bart LLC make sure you stand a fighting chance and represent your best interests throughout your case. Contact us for a free case evaluation and to discuss legal representation.
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