What You Need to Know About Suing a Hospital

An individual has the right to sue a hospital when it makes a mistake that reaches the severity of medical malpractice. Here’s how to sue a hospital in California.

Medical malpractice laws protect a patient’s rights, but the patient must initiate the steps to protecting their rights after suffering from medical malpractice. Also, an individual must determine and prove that they have grounds to sue the hospital; if not, they may be able to sue an individual person, such as a doctor.

California Statute of Limitations for Suing for Medical Malpractice

An individual who is seeking compensation for the injuries they endured should commence their lawsuit in a timely manner. California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.5 states that a plaintiff has one year after the injury was discovered or should have been discovered to file their claim, or within three years of the date that the injury occurred. If an individual fails to file a claim and begin their suit within the given time frames, they lose their right to sue the hospital or doctor for medical malpractice.

Determine That The Hospital Was At Fault

To sue a hospital, an individual must prove that the hospital itself is at fault— it is usually not enough to prove that medical negligence took place at the hospital. An individual may have grounds to sue for medical negligence if

  • the doctor is an employee of the hospital
  • the doctor’s incompetence was obvious or should have been obvious to the hospital.

For grounds to sue a hospital for a doctor’s malpractice, the doctor must be employed at the hospital, rather than be an independent contractor, unless:

  • the hospital did not notify or make clear to an individual that the doctor was not an employee. A hospital will typically notify individuals by providing the information on the admissions forms.
  • an individual was admitted into the emergency room (ER) and was unable to sign the proper paperwork.
  • the hospital failed to train the employees, has incorrect training, or has an incorrect hiring system.
  • the hospital continues to allow employees to practice with issues that can impair their abilities to perform their job, such as substance abuse.

If an individual is unsure if a hospital, doctor, or other employee was at fault, they may file a lawsuit against all parties they believe are involved. Once a suit begins, it may not be possible to add the party at fault and an individual may not receive the compensation they deserve. Naming the correct party at-fault is essential to winning a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Grounds For Suing a Hospital

Once an individual has determined that they can sue a hospital, they must prove that the injuries they sustained are grounds for compensation. The following are common grounds for a lawsuit:

  • the wrongful death of a family member
  • a misdiagnosis
  • medical mistreatment
  • surgical errors
  • a healthcare professional’s negligent actions
  • a staff member’s dangerous or negligent actions
  • mistakes made by medical technicians that resulted in an injury
  • the hospital’s standard of care not being followed
  • and discrimination by a hospital employee.

Related: Can I Sue a Doctor for Prescribing the Wrong Medication?

Suing the Hospital

An individual should begin by obtaining the hospital medical records pertaining to the injury they are seeking damages for. The medical records, along with records of the mistakes and the dates in which the injury was discovered or committed, will be the proof that an individual submits when filing their claim. The proof must convince the court that

  • the hospital, not just the doctor, is responsible AND
  • that the hospital failed to meet the accepted standard of care AND
  • that the injuries sustained were because of the hospital and would not have occurred if the individual had not received the hospital’s treatment.

Once an individual has their grounds established and evidence collected, expected damages should be calculated and a legal claim should be filed. An individual should also notify their insurance that they are filing a claim, because a quick settlement may be reached to avoid going to court.

Related: How to Sue Someone in Small Claims Court


What if I recently discovered an injury that was a result of mistreatment from more than three years ago? Can I still sue the hospital?

Even if it has been more than three years, you can still sue a hospital as long as you begin your lawsuit within one year of discovering the injury.

Can I sue the hospital if a doctor made my medical issue worse?

Since the injury already existed and was only made worse, an individual will need to meet a high standard of proof. A plaintiff must prove that their condition was made worse by the doctor’s mistreatment and not because of a progression in their condition. Also, proof that the hospital employs the doctor or was at fault for the injury is needed.

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If you or a loved one would like to know more about suing a hospital/doctor in California, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified attorney for your unique legal matter. Get your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys in California today!