Can you sue a hospital for negligence in Oklahoma? How to get justice for your loved one

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Hospital, emergency room, and surgical treatments should not be hazardous to your health. Hospitals exist to serve the medical needs of patients, but there are many cases each year of medical errors due to negligent acts or failure to act.

Can you sue a hospital for negligence?

Medical malpractice/negligence laws were created to protect patients from substandard medical treatment. Thanks to these laws, victims who have sustained injuries and damages due to substandard medical treatment have an avenue of recourse.

When an error made by a hospital rises to the level of negligence, and if that negligence causes the patient to suffer harm, that patient may be entitled to compensation. If that negligence results in wrongful death, then the patient’s loved ones may have a wrongful death action on behalf of the deceased patient. 

Meeting the standards of care

In Oklahoma, hospitals, their agents, and their employees are required to provide care and treatment that meets the standard of care. This means that a hospital must provide care that complies with applicable medical standards and is consistent with what a reasonable health care provider would do or not do under the same or similar circumstances.

A hospital that employs a medical staff member can be sued if that staff member is negligent. If an employee under the direction of an employer (in this case the hospital) acts in a negligent manner that breaches the standard of care, the hospital may be responsible for the injuries and damages that resulted from that negligence.  

When are standards of care breached?

Sometimes the outcome of our or our loved one’s treatment is not what we desired. This does not necessarily equate to hospital negligence or medical malpractice. There are elements that must be met to prosecute these types of causes of action.

In order to prosecute a case for medical malpractice or medical negligence in Oklahoma, a plaintiff ( the person bringing the action) is required, among other things, to show that the standard of care has been breached.

Medical experts are retained to review evidence like medical records and radiology films and render an opinion as to whether the standard of care was met or breached in a given case.  A plaintiff is also required to prove that any standard of care breach caused severe personal injuries or death to themselves or a loved one.

Are hospitals liable for employee actions?

The short answer to this question is yes, when certain criteria are met. The long answer is that not all people who work at a hospital are hospital employees.

“Respondeat superior” is a legal theory that means if someone is a hospital employee, the hospital is typically responsible if that employee injures a patient by acting negligently on the job.  Most nurses, medical technicians and support staff are employees.  But what about doctors?

Some doctors are employees of a hospital but others are independent contractors. If the doctor is an independent contractor, this could mean the hospital would not be liable for the doctor’s negligent actions or failure to act. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule. If a hospital gives staff privileges to a doctor who is dangerous due to behavioral issues like drug abuse and allows that doctor to practice medicine at their hospital, they might still be liable. The same is true of a doctor who is incompetent in the relevant field of study.

What are some common examples of hospital negligence?

Inadequate training, credentialing, or supervision can result in errors.  All hospital personnel should be trained.  However, emergency room doctors and other emergency department medical staff should be specifically trained and credentialed to deal with life-threatening situations quickly and competently.  

This is not always the case, as was demonstrated by the tragic death of 19-year-old Alexus Jamel Ochoa-Dockins, which occurred when an unqualified family nurse practitioner failed to properly treat her for a pulmonary embolism. Her family took the courageous action of holding the hospital legally responsible. The Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst team stood with them throughout the process.

Here are some common examples of hospital negligence:

  • Obstetrical errors during delivery of a baby resulting in birth trauma that could lead to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which could lead to cerebral palsy
  • Obstetrical errors during delivery of a baby resulting in brachial plexus injuries
  • Surgical items left inside the patient
  • Surgery performed on wrong patient or body part
  • Bad hospital policy resulting in not having qualified personnel on duty
  • Misdiagnosing, improper monitoring, medication errors, and other potentially harmful or fatal errors
  • An example may be that a significant medical problem is overlooked thereby failing to properly diagnose and treat the medical issue.  Then the patient is discharged from the hospital being told that there is nothing wrong. This error could then result in potentially serious consequences or even death.

The complex requirements that must be met and the many issues that must be addressed to prosecute a hospital negligence or other medical legal case makes them very complicated. It’s important for a person who has concerns about the medical care they received to consult with a qualified, knowledgeable, experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Maples, Nix, & Diesselhorst are ready to stand with you

If you or a loved one sustained permanent catastrophic injuries that you believe are the result of a hospital employee’s negligence your first step is to contact Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst for a free consultation, even if you aren’t certain.

At Maples, Nix and Diesselhorst, we focus our practice on representing the victims of medical error and have a proven track record of success as hospital negligence attorneys. During this stressful time, you should focus on recovering, and let us stand with you as we investigate your potential hospital negligence or medical malpractice case. 

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