Can You Sue A Hospital For An Infection?


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Hospital-acquired infections (HAI) are fairly common for patients who are hospitalized. In fact, on any given day in the U.S. one out of every 31 patients in the hospital is fighting at least one HAI. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that HAIs are responsible for nearly two million infections and 99,000 infection-related deaths each year. While patients typically understand that there is a certain level of risk of being exposed to bacteria when they are being treated in a hospital, if an HAI was caused due to negligent medical care or by unsanitary hospital conditions and it resulted in serious injuries, then a medical malpractice claim may prove successful. 

What is a Hospital-Acquired Infection?

A hospital-acquired infection, also called a nosocomial infection, is an infection that develops in a hospital environment and is not associated with the patient’s original illness or diagnosis. HAIs are usually acquired because of risk factors in one of three areas, and it’s usually within 48 hours of admission to the hospital. Those risks are: 

  • Patient risk – Patients who are seriously injured or sick usually have a weakened immune system, making them more vulnerable to infection. The longer you are a patient in the hospital, the more your risk of infection increases.
  • Medical professional risk – Medical professionals and hospital staff are required to maintain cleanliness when they are interacting with patients. Not using proper hand-washing techniques, failing to use safety protocols when placing a catheter, intubating, or drawing blood can increase the risk of a patient acquiring an HAI.
  • Hospital risk – The hospital setting should be clean, and tools should be sterile. If medical devices, water systems, or bed linens are not cleaned and sterilized properly, the risk of an HAI occurring increases.

What Is The Most Common Type of Hospital-Acquired Infection?

Infections that are hospital-acquired come in various types, including: 

  • Surgical site infections – Typically, this type of infection will occur in or close to the surgical incision. Surgical site infections happen due to improper sanitation and cleaning during the procedure or during post-operative care.
  • Device-related infections – Any medical devices inserted into the body (for example, IVs, catheters, and breathing tubes) that have not been cleaned or sterilized properly can cause infection. Complications from device-related infections can lead to severe health risks, including sepsis, organ failure, septic shock, and death.
  • Respiratory infections – Hospitals and other medical facilities are frequently ridden with viruses, bacteria, and fungi, that can be found in the air and on surfaces. When a patient inhales one of these, it may lead to a respiratory infection.

Can A Hospital-Acquired Infection Kill You? 

If a hospital-acquired infection is left untreated or isn’t treated quickly enough, it can progress into sepsis. The symptoms of sepsis include: 

  • Fever
  • Inflammation (body-wide)
  • Elevated respiratory rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased white blood cell count

When an infection progresses to sepsis, there is a real potential for serious injury to occur. Sepsis can have very serious consequences, including organ damage or failure, and can even result in death. Sepsis is one of the most common causes of death after receiving treatment in intensive care units and emergency rooms.

Who Is Liable For HAIs In A Medical Malpractice Case?

The liability for cases that involve hospital-acquired infections depends on how and where a patient contracted an infection. Those who may be found responsible in an HAI medical malpractice lawsuit include: 

Doctors or other medical professionals – Doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and other hospital personnel may interact with hundreds of patients every day. To prevent the spread of illness and disease, these professionals must take care to wash their hands thoroughly and often and disinfect their tools properly. If they don’t, HAIs may occur, and they may be held liable.

The hospital – Medical facilities have to maintain a high standard of cleanliness throughout the entire buildings. This includes all of the examination, treatment, operation, and patient rooms. Some areas need to remain sterile. Additionally, maintenance for the air and water purifying systems must be kept up throughout the facility. If an HAI occurs due to insufficient cleanliness of the facility, air, or water, the hospital may be held liable. 

Medical device manufacturers – Sometimes, hospital-acquired infections occur due to contaminated or defective medical devices being used. In these cases, the product’s manufacturer may be held liable. 

Ross Feller Casey Can Help With Your HAI Case

Hospitals are typically busy, with many physicians, nurses, and other medical staff seeing many patients in a day. As a result, it can be very difficult to determine whether an HAI occurred due to negligence. It may also prove difficult to trace the negligence and HAI back to its original source. That’s why it is so important to consult an experienced hospital acquired infection attorney if you or a family member have suffered an infection that was acquired while in the hospital. 

At Ross Feller Casey, we have a team of top medical doctors on staff to help with these types of complicated cases. Our doctors, three of whom are also lawyers, have been successful in securing large settlements and verdicts in HAI lawsuits for clients just like you. Our proven track record shows that we are dedicated to our clients, providing them with peace of mind and relieving financial burdens they suffered as a result of their injuries. 

Contact the law offices of Ross Feller Casey for your free case review today. Our medical malpractice cases are handled on a contingency basis, so you don’t pay until a financial recovery is made. 

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.