Can You Sue for a Hospital Acquired Infection?
If you have been injured due to a hospital-acquired infection (HAI) in a hospital setting, then yes – you may be able to file a lawsuit against them for compensation for your losses and personal injury damages.
Infections in a hospital are not uncommon. They are one of the leading causes of patient deaths in the United States. According to recent data, 1.7 million patients acquire an infection from a hospital stay each year – and a full 99,000 of those patients will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you contracted an HAI while receiving treatment, a Las Vegas personal injury attorney can help you file a lawsuit against the liable parties.
What is a Hospital Acquired Infection?
Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are infections that occur during a hospital stay and are not directly related to the patient’s overall health or current diagnosis.
If an infection occurs within 48 hours after admittance, 30 days after surgery, or three days after discharge, it could be an HAI. This is because of the wide array of bacteria and viruses that are found in a hospital setting. Even the cleanliest of hospitals will have some sort of contamination due to the sheer volume of people seen in their facilities.
Types of HAI
Different HAIs can affect a person, based on where the infection takes place. The most common types of HAIs include:
- Staph Infections and MRSA.Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria often found on the skin and in the upper respiratory tract. It can cause different infections depending on where it enters your body. For example, skin infections, such as boils or impetigo (a skin infection that causes blisters).
- Urinary Tract Infection.This is an infection in your bladder or kidneys caused by E. coli bacteria or other germs that enter through your urethra (urine tube).
- Surgical Site Infections.These are typically caused by bacteria/viruses entering the incision after surgery, which can make their way into the bloodstream. It can also happen when bacteria find their way into an open wound during surgery and grow there instead of being removed with normal cleaning procedures.
- Bloodstream infections (BSIs).These are often caused by bacteria that get into the bloodstream through a cut or other wound. A BSI can cause serious illness and death if not treated quickly.
- This is an infection of the stomach, intestine, or both. It’s usually caused by viruses or bacteria that spread easily in healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and dialysis centers.
Risk Factors for HAIs
Infections are acquired in three different ways, based on three layers of risk:
- Patient Risk.This is when the patient’s stay is longer than usual or the patient has a severe illness that makes them more prone to acquiring infections.
- Organizational Risk.This involves the cleanliness of the hospital or clinic, including their filtration systems, patient bed contamination, cleanliness of their water supply, and sterility of medical devices.
- Iatrogenic Risk.This involves the care provided by professionals overseeing the patient – including nurses, physicians, and caretakers. If these individuals fail to sanitize the environment properly or otherwise transfer an illness directly to the patient, they are liable.
Recent Cases of Lawsuits of HAI
According to Nevada Revised Statutes section 41A, non-economic damages in medical malpractice are set at $350,000. Here are some cases and their settlements as a result of hospital-acquired infections (HAI):
Doe v. Roe Hospital, Confidential Docket
A baby born in Roe Hospital developed a low-grade fever, tachycardia, and irregular breathing. Ten years later, the boy suffers from severe brain damage. The family filed a lawsuit against the facility for alleged failure to diagnose and treat bacterial infection. The case was settled for $3 million under a confidentiality agreement.
A.J. as an administrator of the estate of E.J., et al., v. Guadalupe Economic Services, et al.
This is a $1.2 million settlement for an 82-year-old nursing home resident who developed bed sores so severe that they caused an infection in the bone. She died as a result of complications from these injuries. This was the largest single-plaintiff nursing home case and one of the largest verdicts ever obtained by a plaintiff’s attorney against a nursing home.
To file a lawsuit against a hospital, you will need evidence that proves their negligence caused your injuries or illness. A Las Vegas personal injury lawyer can help you with filing a personal injury claim as a result of HAI.
When Is the Hospital Liable?
Hospitals are required to follow specific protocols when it comes to infection control and sterilization. A hospital is liable under the following circumstances:
#1. Lack of Informed Consent
Sometimes a patient is not informed of the potential risk for infection, or the patient doesn’t inform their physician of their own risk. For example, a patient is prone to staph infection but fails to tell their care provider, and therefore measures are not taken to ensure they are not infected.
#2. Delay in Treatment
Hospitals could be responsible for an HAI if they delay diagnosis or treatment of an infection, especially if that infection causes further harm or spreads.
#3. Surgical Neglect
Surgical patients have a particularly high risk of contracting HAIs. That is why hospital staff must follow proper sanitization procedures. When a patient is not cared for during the procedure, such as when they are given contaminated blood products, unsensitized equipment is used, or space is left where bacteria can collect, the surgeon and facility could be liable for that patient’s contraction of an HAI.
#4. Failure to Disinfect
All hospital equipment must be properly sanitized before being used on another patient. When a hospital fails to sanitize or disinfect equipment – including ultrasound or examination equipment – they are liable for any HAIs that result because of it.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Injured patients have many different options when it comes to seeking compensation for their injuries and losses. A lawyer can help injured patients understand all of their options so they can make an informed decision about their case. Legal representation is especially important when it comes to filing lawsuits against hospitals because these institutions have deep pockets and may prove difficult for an individual to fight alone.
An attorney can investigate your claim to determine if it is viable before proceeding with litigation. They can also ensure that court documents filed on your behalf comply with Nevada state laws and that any evidence collected is admissible in court. They can prove medical malpractice (that doctors failed to meet their ethical obligations and patients suffered as a result). This includes expert witnesses’ testimony as well as medical records obtained by subpoena or through discovery requests sent to the hospital where the infection occurred.
Also, the liable healthcare facility/doctor may offer you a settlement that doesn’t even come close to covering your injuries. This would make it difficult for you to pay off medical bills and other damages. A Nevada personal injury lawyer can help negotiate a fair settlement. The legal process is usually complex. A lawyer can help you navigate the system and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
In most cases, you only have a limited amount of time after an injury occurs in which you can file a lawsuit against someone for damages resulting from their negligence. This is known as a statute of limitations.
The Nevada statute of limitation gives you three years after the malpractice to file a lawsuit. The also allows one to file a lawsuit one year after discovering the injury, or a year after the victim was supposed to discover it through reasonable diligence. This means that after this period lapses, you completely lose your chance of filing a lawsuit against the liable parties.
You Can Sue a Hospital for an Acquired Infection
If you think your infection acquired in the hospital was a result of malpractice, then you can sue for damages. A lawyer from our firm can take up your medical malpractice case and help you understand your rights and options for compensation. Contact the medical malpractice attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group today or fill out an online contact form to get started.