Can a Hospital Be Held Liable for a Patient's Infection?
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Jan 14, 2019 in Medical Malpractice
Many patients go to hospitals to have surgery or for treatment for a serious illness or injury. However, some patients develop infections while in the hospital that can compromise their health. In some of these situations, the hospital may be held liable for negligence, including the negligence of its employees.
If you developed an infection while being treated in a hospital or medical institution, you may be entitled to compensation for the resulting damages you suffered. Contact Goldberg Finnegan’s experienced medical malpractice attorneys in Silver Spring for a free, no obligation consultation. We will carefully review your claim and the circumstances behind the infection you or your loved one suffered to determine if the hospital is at fault.
What Is a Hospital-Acquired Infection?
A hospital-acquired infection is an infection that is acquired in a medical facility that is unrelated to the patient’s condition. Patients may develop infections while being treated in a hospital, rehabilitation clinic, outpatient treatment center, nursing home, or another type of clinical setting.
Patients often acquire infections when the medical facility is unsterile, allowing germs and bacteria to spread from patients to staff members and health care providers. Because many patients admitted to hospitals have a weakened immune system, they are often at much greater risk of developing infections. Typically, the infection will develop within 48 hours after the patient has been admitted to the medical facility.
Risk Factors that Cause Hospital-Acquired Infections
Patients face several risk factors for acquiring an infection when they are admitted to a hospital or medical facility. The likelihood of acquiring an infection may depend on their involvement with hospital staff, hospital cleaning protocols, or the patient’s own health condition.
Patient Risk Factors
Patients may be susceptible to bacteria and germs located in contaminated hospital rooms, beds, or objects in the facility. The bacteria may also be airborne, making it difficult to control. However, there are several factors which may contribute to a patient acquiring an infection, including:
- The duration of the patient’s stay
- The severity of the patient’s illness or injury
- The strength of the patient’s immune system
- Contact the patient has had with hospital staff members, health care providers or other patients
Organizational Risk Factors
Patients may develop an infection due to the hospital or medical facility’s organizational procedures. This may include:
- The cleanliness of the facility and treatment setting
- The cleanliness of the water systems
- The sanitation of building surfaces
- Sterility of medical devices and procedures
- The cleanliness of the hospital’s HVAC system
- The number of patients being treated at the facility
- The proximity of patients being treated or residing next to each other
Iatrogenic Risk Factors
Health care providers and hospital staff members must take adequate steps to prevent spreading infectious germs and bacteria. Patients may be at risk of acquiring an infection while receiving medical treatment depending on:
- The frequency in which health care providers and staff members wash their hands before and after interacting with patients
- The use of antibiotics that prevent or treat infections
- The level of care doctors, nurses and surgeons use during invasive procedures, such as intubation, catherization or administering medication intravenously
- The degree of caution staff members and health care providers exercise when performing the regular duties of their job
Hospital Liability for Infections
Hospitals and medical facilities may be held liable for a patient’s infection when a causal link can be established between their policies or staff members' actions and the patient’s condition.
However, health care providers are not always employed by the hospital where they practice medicine. They may be third-party contractors, so the hospital has little to no control over them. In this situation, the hospital may not be legally responsible for the health care provider’s actions.
A hospital may be held liable for an infection if the facility failed to uphold the standards held by the medical community when treating patients. This may include negligent practices such as:
- Hiring unqualified or undertrained staff members
- Failing to implement adequate cleaning and sterilization procedures
- Neglecting to maintain or repair medical equipment
- Failing to separate or quarantine patients with infections from the general population
An attorney will carefully investigate the potential cause of your infection to attempt to prove the hospital where you received medical treatment is liable for your condition. He or she will work to gather enough evidence to show you or your loved one was subjected to substandard conditions or received negligent treatment from the hospital’s staff.
Based on the results of the investigation, your attorney will be able to inform you of whether you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital to recover compensation for the damages you suffered.
Contact Goldberg Finnegan for a Free Consultation
If you developed an infection in the hospital, you may want to strongly consider contacting an experienced attorney for assistance with filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. These claims can be complex and require an in-depth understanding of Maryland’s medical malpractice laws and experience proving medical negligence.
The attorneys at Goldberg Finnegan have helped countless clients recover compensation after suffering an injury or illness. Contact us as soon as possible to schedule a free, no obligation consultation. We charge no upfront fees and you only owe us for our legal services if we are able to recover compensation on your claim.
Call (888) 213-8140 today to schedule your free consultation.