When can I sue the hospital for doctor's mistake? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Suing a hospital for a doctor’s mistake is a complex legal matter that falls under the realm of medical malpractice law. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional’s actions or omissions deviate from the standard of care, leading to harm or injury to a patient. However, not every mistake by a doctor will automatically give rise to a viable medical malpractice claim. Several key factors must be present to have a potential case for suing the hospital for a doctor’s mistake. Here are some scenarios when you might be able to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital.

Doctor-Patient Relationship

To sue a hospital for a doctor’s mistake, a doctor-patient relationship must exist. This means that you must have sought and received medical treatment from the doctor in question, and the doctor must have been responsible for your care during the incident in question.

Breach of Standard of Care

Medical professionals are held to a standard of care based on what a reasonably competent healthcare provider would do under similar circumstances. If the doctor’s actions or omissions deviated from this standard, and this breach caused harm or injury, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Injury or Harm

A mistake or negligence by a doctor alone is not enough to pursue a lawsuit. To have a valid claim, you must demonstrate that the doctor’s error directly caused injury or harm to you. The harm could include physical injuries, emotional distress, financial losses, or worsened medical conditions.


There must be a direct link between the doctor’s mistake and the resulting harm. Proving causation is a critical element of a medical malpractice claim. You must demonstrate that the doctor’s actions directly led to your injuries, and those injuries would not have occurred otherwise.

Substantial Damages

Medical malpractice cases can be costly and time-consuming. As such, it is crucial that the injuries or harm caused by the doctor’s mistake result in significant damages. This could include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other financial or non-financial losses incurred as a result of the mistake.

Statute of Limitations

Medical malpractice claims are subject to a statute of limitations, which limits the time within which you can file a lawsuit. The timeframe varies by jurisdiction and typically starts from the date of the incident or from when the injury was discovered or should have been discovered. In Virginia, the statute of limitations is two years.

Hospital’s Vicarious Liability

In some cases, a hospital can be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees, including doctors. If the doctor was an employee of the hospital, acting within the scope of their employment, the hospital may also be held accountable for the doctor’s mistake.

Consulting with an Attorney

It’s essential to note that not all unfavorable outcomes or medical complications are due to medical malpractice. Medicine is not an exact science, and doctors cannot guarantee specific results. Sometimes, even when following the standard of care, unexpected complications may arise.

If you believe you have a valid medical malpractice claim against a hospital for a doctor’s mistake, it is crucial to seek legal counsel from an experienced Virginia medical malpractice attorney. These cases are complex and require a thorough investigation of medical records, expert testimony, and a deep understanding of medical standards and laws. An attorney can assess the merits of your case, guide you through the legal process, and help you pursue the compensation and justice you deserve.